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SACRIFICING YOUTH - Dignity - Danish Institute Against Torture

F A C U L T Y O F S O C I A L S C I E N C E SU N I V E R S I T Y O F C O P E N H A G E NSACRIFICING YOUTHMAOIST CADRES AND POLITICAL ACTIVISM IN POST-WARNEPALDan Vesalainen Hirslund


PHD THESISAuthor:Title:Department:Supervisor:Front page:Dan Vesalainen HirslundSacrificing Youth: Maoist Cadres and PoliticalActivism in Post-War NepalDepartment of AnthropologyMorten Axel PedersenPhoto by author, design by Morten MejneckeSubmitted: April 3, 2012Description:This is an ethnography about young, lower-level cadres inNepal’s Maoist movement after the 2006 transition to peace.The dissertation investigates the mobilization of a new generationof young people to the Maoist’s youth movement andhow they are recruited to a program of revolution and selfsacrifice.The overall question explored is what it means to becomea revolutionary when the war is over and how it hasformed Maoist youth activism and Nepali political culture.


Try again. Fail again. Fail better.- Samuel Beckett „Worstward Ho‟


CONTENTSSumma ryA cknowle dg me ntsI N T R O D U C T I O N 1framing the argumentanalytical frameworkfieldwork, methods & ethicsoutlineC H A P T E R 1 T H E MAOI S T REVOLUTIO N 29pre-war Nepalpeople’s war 1996-2006post-war NepalC H A P T E R 2 M O B I L I Z E D T O C L A S S S T R U G G L E 71mobilizing laborers and migrantsshifting perspectivefrom hardship to class strugglerecruitment as sacrificeC H A P T E R 3 S U B M I T T I N G T O C A M P L I F E 104Nayabasti campa military command systemcommanders as instructors and cadres as apprenticesdisobeying leaderssubmitting to sacrifice


C H A P T E R 4 L A B O R I N G F O R C O L L E C T I V I T Y 136daily activities in Nayabasticontinuous and disciplined laborcollectivity and selfishnesschores as revolutionary laborC H A P T E R 5 W A I T I N G F O R W O R K, WAI T I N G A S W O R K 165waiting for leaderswaiting to become leadersdisciplined waitingwaiting as preparationwaiting as sacrificeC H A P T E R 6 C O M M U N I S T PIETIS M 186‘we did not come here to eat tasty food’becoming a ‘new man’‘inner struggle’renouncing ‘entertainment’‘rules and regulations’communist pietismCHAPTER 7 ACTIVISM BETWEEN THE PUBLIC AND ‘THE PEOPLE’ 215processions as a political statementthe public as witnessesa history of ‘people power’obstructing traffic and waving black flagsC H A P T E R 8 S E C U R I T I Z I N G T H E PUBL I C 246‘doing security’protecting the publicyouth vict imssymmetries of sacrificeC O N C L U S I O N 265A p pendice s 274R efe rence s 288


SUMMARYIn November 2006, the Government of Nepal and the Nepali Maoist movement enteredinto a peace agreement that ended 10 years of armed struggle, bringing the country intoa transition period and the former clandestine Maoist guerilla force into the politicalmainstream. Based on 10 months of fieldwork in Kathmandu during 2009, this dissertationinvestigates the changes to political culture that the transition to peace has resultedin through an analysis of the Maoist movement‟s shift from rural-based warfare to multi-partydemocratic politics in the capital Kathmandu. The post-conflict context has seenthe rise of new forms of activism, spearheaded by the Maoists youth wing, the YoungCommunist League, which mixes protest and militarism with social service programs,and the aim is to investigate the ideas and social dynamics that sustain such expressionsof politics. What are, I ask, the processes by which current forms of Maoist youth activismhave grown since 2006 peace agreement and how is it practiced and legitimized?To explore this, the dissertation focuses on how the Young Communist Leaguemobilizes and trains a new generation of members to the Maoist cause and to politicalactivism. Based on the idea that it is a leading revolutionary force in the process ofbringing about a New Nepal, the Maoist movement sees the current peace process as acontinuation of the decade-long People‟s War and its youth organization as the frontrunnerof this revolutionary process in the changed political circumstances. But whatdoes it mean to carry on a Maoist revolution within a democratic parliamentary framework?How can a revolutionary space of activism be carved out, within the existingframes of political culture, that allows the Maoists and their youth movement to be aprogressive force for change?In seeking to answer these questions, the dissertation investigates Maoist mobilizationprocesses among the generation of post-conflict cadres who have become the centralcharacters in this revolutionary transformation. To this end, I follow cadres as theyare recruited by the Young Communist League and move into small communes wherethey are educated in the values and skills of Maoist activism, and out again into their


public work as activists where they draw extensively on their long periods of training.Analytically, I focus on political subjectivity as the lens through which to investigateMaoist activism as this allows me to ask, from the perspective of the cadres, what itmeans to become a revolutionary, and hence to pose the problem of post-war politicalculture from the vantage point of cadre experience: how do young people experiencetheir transformation into Maoist cadres and how do they understand their own activism,which have become one of the most contentious issues in post-conflict Nepal? Drawingon the movement‟s idea of revolutionary sacrifice, I am particularly interested in exploringhow current forms of Maoist activism are narrated and experienced as a form of sacrifice,and in which ways this might inform activist practices.The thesis is organized like a parable about the young cadres‟ sacrifice, startingwith mobilization processes (Chapter 2), passing through the communes and trainingunits that are known internally as camps (Chapters 3-6) and ending with examples of thecadres‟ activism once they have completed their period of training (Chapter 7-8). In becomingcadres, it is argued, post-war members are convinced of the need to sacrificetheir period of youth to the Maoist cause and this is the beginning of a long relationshipwith the party and themselves that revolves around the potency of youth for politics.New cadres begin to see themselves as morally divided between two expressions ofyouth and, through their training in the camps, cadres learn to strengthen and draw on apositive force of youth as energetic and one capable of sacrificing itself for a greatercause, in contrast to a negative youth force that is selfish and focused on the pleasuresof entertainment and money. Increasingly, through their political maturation in thecamps, positive expressions of youth become associated with cadre life and negativeones with life outside the camp and outside the party. As I shall argue, this has importantconsequences for the form that cadres‟ activism takes because it expresses thedouble-edged nature of youth as political actors and it is particularly through processesof youth sacrifice – their own and others‟ – that Maoist activism is formed in the postwarcontext. The analytic of sacrifice thereby informs our understanding of contemporaryNepali political culture and Maoist politics in particular, and it is in the intersticesbetween these processes that this ethnography of youth, mobilization and revolution islocated.


SACRIFICING YOUTH


INTRODUCTIONWhen I arrived in Kathmandu in January 2009, barely more than half a year after thefirst elected post-conflict government had commenced its tenure, the public euphoria ofa long-awaited peace process had begun to turn sour. Everyone had hoped that the transitiongovernment, spearheaded by the former guerilla fighters, would bring a freshchange to a long record of political bickering but the initial hope slowly turned to frustration,as they were unable to accomplish any significant social or political reforms.Daily life in Nepal was rife with strikes and protests and peace was also at best shaky inKathmandu, a point that was efficiently driven home by occasional bomb blasts, andeverybody complained about spiraling incidents of crime and looting. To make mattersworse, daily blackouts of up to 16 hours accompanied my first months of fieldwork, andpeople hurried indoors after sunset, avoiding contact with silhouetted strangers in thestreet.Against this widespread pessimism, I was surprised to find that in the Maoistmovement and among its youth wing where I conducted fieldwork, there was a ceaselesspolitical optimism. Based on a strong belief in the steady improvement of the goalsset by the party, there was an air of hope and a spirit of industrious eagerness that greatlycontrasted with public sentiments. What was a sign of decay for ordinary Nepalisseemed like a call to work for my interlocutors: too much crime could be solved by patrollingneighborhoods and catching thieves; the failure of the state to provide basic socialservices was an opportunity to combat widespread corruption, and so on. Whatdemonstrated resoluteness for the activists, signaled deterioration for the public and itseemed Nepal was divided into two worlds with the pessimists on one side and the optimistson the other.Suraj, at 18, was one of the young Maoist cadres that I got to know very well. Heworked as a painter in Kathmandu during the political tumult in the spring of 2006when the state of emergency was resisted by a broad popular uprising that returned thepolitical parties to power and ended the Maoists‟ armed struggle. In early 2007, not long


I N T R O D U C T I O Nafter the establishment of the Maoists‟ new youth wing, he decided to join the party.Though barely 16 at the time, he had already been a wage laborer for several years, andhe was very excited at the prospect of a party with a strong pro-poor agenda. Suraj wasyoung and physically fit and felt that this was a blessed period of his life where he couldreally engage in something which interested him. „Youth have a special energy,‟ he toldme, and it would be a waste to just spend it painting like his father had done – and wasdoing still. If there was a time for being politically active and putting one‟s energy touse, this was definitely it. The Maoists were the most logical option for getting organizedin this work, since they had by far the strongest image as a movement for socialjustice and change, but what was ultimately at stake for cadres like Suraj was neither thesurvival of the party nor the prospects of a political career, which they did not have accessto from their marginal socio-economic position; it was rather the prospect of seeinga transformed New Nepal and participating in bringing this about. Faced with the direneeds of a fragile transition and the continued exploitation of poor people, not becomingengaged in politics would be turning a blind eye to the fate of the nation and its need fora fresh generation of activists. The turn to politics and revolution, cadres insisted, was asign of responsibility, and ultimately, of their sacrifice for Nepal and its people.FRAMING THE ARGUMENTSince February 2007, a new political phenomenon has swept across urban Nepal, andthe capital Kathmandu in particular: the Young Communist League (YCL), the youthwing of the Maoist party, the CPN-M. With its mixture of militarism and mainstreamactivism, it has championed a „street‟ politics through protests, parades, social campaignsand policing of criminals that has been roundly criticized for radicalizing thedemocratic political space and worsening an already fragile peace process, following adecade-long violent conflict that ended in late 2006. Consisting almost entirely of youngmen dressed in striped sports suits and with a communist red bandana tied around theirhead, the YCL‟s activism is highly visible and its activities have been followed closelyby the national media and international observers who have routinely charged its cadreswith disrupting public order and worsening the security situation through violent attackson rival political groupings or people they are seen to dislike or disagree with. In itspublic image, the YCL uses a „strong arm tactic‟ that is ill-suited to a democratic transitionfrom war to peace and, due to its poor reputation and dominant presence in the urbanlandscape, it has possibly become the most contentious political phenomena in postconflictNepal. Against the widespread opposition to the YCL‟s particular brand of activismas excessive and unnecessary, however, the movement‟s leaders and members2


I N T R O D U C T I O Nhold that it is precisely „necessity‟ that defines its unique character, that which makes it„progressive‟ and requires that it „adopts a force theory‟, for how else can it be revolutionary?This dissertation is an ethnographic study of the Young Communist League as aparticular political phenomenon within the Nepali Maoist movement, and the overallaim is to contribute to an analysis of contemporary political culture in Nepal and thechallenges bound up with a transition from war to peace. Since 1990, when a broad uprisingbrought to an end 30 years of autocratic governance, difficulties in establishing aninclusive and stable democratic platform have nourished a radical-left Maoist movementwhich has successfully mobilized countrywide support in the rural areas through anarmed struggle and has, since 2006, moved to the center of the political arena and secureda surprising electoral victory in May 2008, thereby becoming the largest party inthe country. In the span of just a few years, Nepali Maoism has traveled from the jungleand into the mainstream, negotiating a difficult shift from guerilla war to democraticparticipation. Underlying the Maoist movement‟s success has been a strong pro-poorand anti-elitist platform backed by programs of redistributive justice that have sought tochampion not only a communist vision of equality but strong nationalist sentiments tore-establish the glory of Nepal and its people against the interference of „foreign forces‟,most notably India and the USA. The Maoist transition has paved the way for a reconfigurationof democratic society with its mix of communist politics and nationalist sentimentality,introducing both a radical conceptualization of democracy and a novel setof actors onto the political scene.By focusing on the youth wing of the Maoist movement, the dissertation exploresthe ways in which the complex configurations and histories of radical politics, youthmobilization and the transition to peace have engendered new political spaces that bothbuild on and contradict dominant ideas and practices of what constitutes legitimate politics.When looking at the YCL, we are confronted with the question that is highly centralto any radical-left grouping operating within dominant tropes of democracy and parliamentarism,namely how to navigate a political field that one is at the same time seekingto transform – a question which points not only to the limits of legible political actionsbut equally to the possibilities and pitfalls of communist politics. I explore thisquestion by turning to the site of activism and the interplay between public and internalorganizational aspects of the YCL, as this is where everyday political battles are stagedand political philosophies realized and resisted. Sitting at the intersection between individualmembers and the movement organizing them into action, activism opens up afruitful point of departure for an anthropology of the political field because it allows us3


I N T R O D U C T I O Nto understand how organizational values and political priorities are shaped and result inspecific forms of expression.The Young Communist League relies for its public programs on a unique vision,culture and corps of cadres that it takes great care to train and integrate into the partycommunity, and it is to the nature of this phenomenon we must turn to interrogate themovement at large. Based on 10 months of fieldwork in Kathmandu in 2009, I explorethe nature of the YCL‟s activism by focusing on its internal cadre culture as the key tounlocking the „secret‟ behind its political expressions: in the way it mobilizes and trainsnew cadres to a program of revolution, in how it organizes members to generate disciplineand increase efficiency, and in the forging of new political identities that breakwith dominant perceptions of activism. In focusing on Maoist cadres, I am therefore lessinterested in the urban politics within which the YCL has consolidated itself and the socio-politicalenvironment that it maneuvers within than I am in understanding how itbuilds cadres and what it means, from the individual member‟s perspective, to becomemobilized to revolutionary politics during a democratic transition: what are the challengesthat YCL cadres are faced with in their decisions to become Maoist activists andwhat is it they learn about politics and legitimacy that informs public, political behavior?My overall argument is that Nepali Maoism‟s move from the margins to the centerof politics has taken place through the cultivation of new political identities that mixideas of youth and revolutionary ideology with national sacrifice, thus establishing theMaoist party as the savior of the nation and its cadres as heroes and role models of acoming New Nepal. The Maoist movement has consolidated its position in the postconflictlandscape through the successful mobilization of a young generation to activismand introduced a politicization of the urban environment in an effort to empower ordinarypeople to participate in political decision-making. By drawing on a tradition of„people power‟ as it has been experienced through successive popular uprisings in 1990and 2006, traditions of national warrior sacrifices, and the moral power of exemplaryconduct, the Maoist movement has built a cadre culture that is as much about the rise ofa new national political figure as it is about producing party soldiers, and it is in thisoverlapping identity between the revolutionary party cadre and national youth heroesthat the analysis is located. YCL activism is thus revealed to be a product of a specificrendition and creation of the revolutionary post-war cadre whose commitment is encapsulatedin the idiom of sacrifice, allowing us to appreciate the intricate linkages betweenyouth identities, Maoist ideology and Nepali political culture.The chief question this dissertation sets out to explore is what it means to become arevolutionary in the aftermath of war, positioned between the heroic struggle of senior4


I N T R O D U C T I O Nmembers during the armed phase and faced with the prospect of a continued revolutionto bring about a New Nepal. 1 This entails looking in detail at the role and form that sacrificetakes in the changed political context. Sacrifice is a central ethos around whichcadres‟ mobilization is structured, and self-sacrifice (balidan) has historically been centralto the ethics of membership in the Maoist movement, and reached a climax duringthe armed struggle, the „People's War‟, when Maoist soldiers gave their lives to the revolutionand acquired the status of martyrs. But what does self-sacrifice mean in a contextof peace, where sacrifice no longer requires the taking or giving of life? How is sacrificebecoming re-signified in the post-war context among the new generation of Maoistcadres that are not engaged in armed combat?The specific argument forwarded in this dissertation is that sacrifice in the post-warcontext has been turned inwards and onto a struggling self and is therefore reminiscentof ascetic rather than warrior sacrifice. Reflecting the changed momentum of the Maoistrevolution that is now unfolding within the context of democratic politics, sacrifice hasslowed down and become less spectacular; instead of sacrifices on the battlefield confrontedwith an enemy, they now take place in the camp, where they become extendedinto years, and involve turning oneself into a victim. Revolutionary sacrifice has becomeprotracted and internalized.Ethnographically, I focus on the young and new recruits to the YCL who have dedicatedthemselves full-time to the movement and reside in small shared communes thatare called camps. By paying special attention to the role of the camp in the cadres‟ processof becoming revolutionaries, I investigate the personal and moral investment thataccompanies political mobilization. Cadres‟ decisions to join and leave are fraught withdifficult dilemmas because they feel so much is at stake for them as individuals but alsofor the country's development. To start with, they must leave their current occupationbehind, shift to living in a camp and learn entirely new skills, which challenges them ona practical level. And, in addition, they develop new visions of themselves and of societywhich result in a quite different set of quandaries: have they wasted their youth inchasing one employment opportunity after another that never seemed to lead anywhere?Have their parents failed them in not giving them a proper education? Is it morally deplorableto drink and smoke? Is it sometimes OK to use violence against others to preventan even greater calamity? And how can they contribute and make a change?1 In posing this question, I am interested in exploring not just how individuals experience becoming YCLcadres, with the contradictions and shifts this implies, but rather in trying to understand how the formationof revolutionary subjects results in specific organizational and political configurations. It is theproblem of activism as a form of expression that is my overall concern and not how people cope with thechallenges involved in their turn to Maoism.5


I N T R O D U C T I O NSuch questions blur the lines between the personal and the political, and it is in theseinterstices that I seek to locate the processes of mobilization and the making of revolutionarysubjectivity. I show what part local morality, ideas of youth and the concreteexperience of activism play, and I also examine the wider ideas of social and politicalreform that accompanied mobilization. I will focus on how my informants understoodand experienced their decisions to volunteer and the changed circumstances of theirlives during their time as cadres in the camp but also focus on how their new role repositionedthem in society and how this affected their relationships with friends and familyoutside the party. Through an ethnography that weaves together the daily life of cadresin the camps with local social and political values, I show what it means to be a revolutionaryin this post-conflict space.The analytic of sacrifice connects cadres' extended lives in camps with theircommitment to the revolution, and with their work as activists in public. Thus, theparticularity of this case is relevant for understanding contemporary Nepali politicalculture; it throws light not only on how cadres are trained in the YCL and what it meansto receive a revolutionary education for largely illiterate young wage laborers but it alsoanalyzes the form that the revolution has taken during the political transition by linkingit with the constitution of political subjectivities and discourses and practices ofsacrifice.Far from being simply a marginal political phenomenon, then, the everyday life andsubjective experiences of Maoist cadres is expressive of a political subjectivity connectedwith revolutionary movements worldwide and, as such, part of a globalized identitythat stresses a willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of a socio-political program.In the tumultuous climate of transitory Nepal, this revolutionary subjectivity is part ofthe configuration of contemporary political culture and offers an important perspectiveon the nature of politics. Moreover, in spite of the marginal position of entry-level youthin the political structure, their formative experience as activists will undoubtedly providea context for understanding central aspects of Nepali society in years to come. Cadres'lives, I argue, thereby illuminate the complex processes by which political subjectivitiesare constituted and partake in the larger reconstitution of political culture inpost-conflict Nepal.ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORKThe anthropological study of political culture in Nepal is still a bourgeoning researchfield that draws on a wide variety of research themes. With the dramatic political eventsof the last decades, researchers in Nepal have increasingly turned their eye to studying6


I N T R O D U C T I O Npolitical processes. 2 The Maoist war, in particular, inspired numerous publications thatsought to make sense of this new political entity albeit with very sparse first-hand materialfrom the field (for an exception, see Onesto 2005); researchers were left with theCPN-M‟s own reports and interviews with their leaders (Thapa 2003; Karki & Seddon2003; Vishwakarma 2006), or general macro-analyses that investigated its causes, ideologyand strategies (Baral 2006; Thapa & Sijapati 2004; Upreti 2008) but had little tosay about how it worked on the ground or why people actually joined. Except for asmall handful of ethnographers who provided pioneering descriptions from their fieldworkduring the war and which has helped frame the way in which we think about Nepal‟sMaoist movement today (de Sales 2000; Shneiderman 2003; Shneiderman & Turin2004; Lecomte-Tilouine 2004a; Pettigrew 2004), the overriding shortcoming rested,simply, on a lack of data.This dissertation is an effort to fill this empirical gap of knowledge by providing anethnographic account from within the movement. The changed political circumstanceshas made it easier to conduct fieldwork in or around the CPN-M and, in recent years, anumber of scholars have both explored the new forms of politics that this has resulted inand sought to understand different aspects of its activism (Marsden 2010; Ghimire2008; Maycock 2010; Medeiros 2010; Zharkevich 2009a; Sharma 2010). 3 One of theinteresting results of this anthropological upsurge on the Maoist movement has been areconceptualization of the ideological context of the organization and, in particular, theway in which this has affected ideas of the individual‟s role in a revolutionary movement(Fujikura 2003; Mottin 2010; Lecomte-Tilouine 2006; Zharkevich 2009a; Snellinger2010a). The study supplements this body of literature by considering the case ofpost-war Maoism and by paying attention to the constitution of political subjectivities,drawing on a rich tradition in the anthropology of Nepal. 4 With the growth of a Nepali2 This is particularly true for ethnographic research, which has principally been preoccupied with questionsof religion and caste (Gellner & Quigley 1995; Parish 1993; Gray 1995) and studies of rural communities(Cameron 1998; Ortner 1978; Bennett 1983), privileging the minority ethnic groups (Holmberg1989; March 2002). The democratization of politics following the 1990 revolution drove ethnographers tofocus on the national and global contexts for identity production (Fisher 2001), situating Nepal in theglobal flow of modernity discourses (Ahearn 2004; Liechty 2005), and offering a body of literature thatconsidered Nepal through the lens of politics (Gellner et al 1997; Hoftun et al 1999; Gellner & Hachhethu2008), specifically addressing political institutions (Pfaff-Czarnecka 2008), political consciousness(Shneiderman 2009) and forms of participation (Lakier 2007; Wilmore 2008).3 Jeevan Sharma‟s ongoing work with the PLA and the YCL is the only other research on the YCL that Iam aware of and complements the present research admirably by being almost exclusively focused onrural Nepal, by being based on formal interviews, and by seeking to cover several locations rather thanconducting in-depth fieldwork into one particular social setting. These differences notwithstanding, wehave come to a remarkably similar set of conclusions.4 I am thinking, in particular, of analyses of how changing socio-political configurations and new discourseshave given rise to novel conceptions of self and other, from teenage romances and their techniquesof love-letter writing (Ahearn 2004), through the position of young household workers in urban7


I N T R O D U C T I O Npolitical anthropology, interesting studies of activism have also begun to surface(Gellner 2009, 2010; Karki 2006; Snellinger 2010b; de Sales 2010) but there is a furtherneed to probe the variegated experiences and entangled relationships that follow fromthe emergence of youth as political actors and reflect the new positions for political participationthat have become possible with the mainstreaming of the Maoist movement. 5Nepali Maoism belongs to a long and lively tradition of Marxist-Leninist-Maoistmovements worldwide that seek to overthrow capitalist state structures and replacethem with socialist ones. In Maoism, the question of emancipatory politics is alwaystied up with questions of militarism and a position of antagonism to the dominant socialorder, thereby closely integrating the political problem of capturing the state with thesocial one of building novel institutions and identities through which communist personscan develop. As such, the thematic question that drives this study – how revolutionarysubjectivity is constituted – connects with numerous historical examples inwhich revolutionary identities have been articulated. Nepali Maoism offers an interestingand curious case because of its participation in a multi-party peace process afterhaving carried out a program of armed struggle, thus contrasting with the history ofMarxist militant movements that have either succeeded in capturing state power, remainedunderground, or been co-opted by less radical political forces. The Maoistmovement was not defeated but changed its strategy from armed opposition to cooperationwith the major political parties and this way entered into a joint peace process.In exploring the convergences between Nepali Maoism and the historical context ofa democratic transition, we are confronted by the challenge of how to develop a theoreticalvocabulary for analyzing the flourishing field of new identities, novel practices andthe rise of alternative political spaces while linking these distinct developments to thesocial and cultural field from which they originate and against those they react to. AsFrancesco Alberoni explained in his important work on „the two social states‟ (1984),efforts at overthrowing one social order with the goal of creating a new one landsmiddle-class homes (Shah 2000) and to Mark Liechty‟s seminal work on middle-class youth in Kathmanduand their precarious position between the non-refined consumption of the lower classes and the vulgarityof the elite (Liechty 2003). Within politics, this line of inquiry has, in particular, been drawn by RichardBurghart‟s multifaceted examinations of ascetics, cobblers and political culture (Burghart et al. 1996),Vivienne Kondos‟ early efforts at making sense of the 1990 revolution (Kondos 1994), Laura Kunreuther‟ssensitive exploration of women‟s „voice‟ in new movements (Kunreuther 2009) and Lauren Leve‟sthought-provoking analysis of rural women‟s participation in revolution and development (Leve 2009). Inprobing questions of subjectivity, this study seeks to further these efforts at analyzing how changing conceptionsand socio-political developments inform personal experiences and hence the formation of politicalidentities.5 Youth are a particularly interesting research object in the current political climate. Historically, labormigrations has been the major mobilizer of young people to new social identities but with the onset of thePeople War in 1996, soldiering for the Maoists became a new way of being young (Zharkevich 2009b)for uneducated and low-caste rural youth, and it is this tradition the Maoists have brought with them intheir transformation into an urban movement, now mobilizing the urban poor.8


I N T R O D U C T I O Nmovements in a liminal stage whereby previous hierarchies and norms are turned upsidedown without new ones having solidified. In such periods – which he terms the „nascentstate‟ – a multitude of contradictory and inconclusive cultural forms are born. NepaliMaoism operates in what I would term a „twilight state‟; it is revolting against establishedhierarchies, political practices and cultural norms, and this has led it into unchartedterritory in which the construction of new types of relationship and different valueshave gone hand in hand with the physical assault on state and societal structures. Followinga Leninist model of centralized planning and state-building, however, themovement‟s leaders are at the same time trying to circumvent a nascent state proper,seeking instead to steer the revolution around the edges of the nascent and quickly intothe new order. While this was accomplished during the People‟s War by establishingparallel structures of governance, it poses a special problem in the current „open‟ politicalcontext where efforts at instituting a new revolutionary order are curtailed by thestructures of state and society. The project of a communist socio-political transformationis now unfolding under the umbrella of parliamentary and competitive party politics,thus diffusing the forces that operate in the mainstream through negotiation (partyleaders) and those that keep building alternative forms of sociality in the twilight ofpublic space (YCL camps). The latter are spaces that are both partially visible and partiallynascent, seeking not only to challenge the old but to firmly and authoritativelyerect the new.To build a theoretical framework that encompasses these formulations of noveltywithin established social and political forms, I combine three approaches which, inunison, enable me to explore how a new generation of cadres is being trained andshaped to become Maoist activists. The first analytical frame considers general processesof cadreship: how one becomes a cadre, the role one is assigned within the organization,and how one moves within and through the institutional context. In addition to investigatingthe particular dynamics between organizational strategies and cadre positionality,this approach pays particular attention to how mobilization leads to new configurationsof identity as a result of Maoist mobilization seeking to break with dominantsocietal values. The second analytical frame goes one step further to explore how cadresperceive and become invested in their new identities and roles as cadres. Movementssuch as the Nepali Maoists actively seek to mold new members to fit with their valuesand I turn to the question of revolutionary subjectivity in order to explore how cadresare constituted as subjects within a radically different „ontology‟ of the self; 6 what ca-6 I use subjectivity here to refer to the dynamic between the structural and historical construction of specificsubject-positions and actors‟ variegated efforts at fitting into these frames and making them constitutiveof the self. Drawing on Michel Foucault (1984), Giogio Agamben (2009) and, more recently, Veena9


I N T R O D U C T I O Ndres are taught about their activism, how they are trained to perform and how they areinvited to change into different persons. The third, and final, analytical frame brings intheories of sacrifice to shed light on how Maoist cadreship implies a reconfiguration ofindividual aspirations within new horizons of meaning, and how this enables an „exchange‟that generates new communal and political relationships and connects camp lifewith public activism. Considering these three approaches together allows me to movefrom the institutional dynamics through which cadres are taught to become revolutionaries,to the ways that cadres are mobilized to a project of personal reform, and then tothe question of how cadres‟ training engenders a political commitment and contributionthrough sacrifice.CadreshipThe first theme of analysis draws on explorations of youth identities and the complexconfigurations of mobilization in South Asia. 7 The way in which revolutionary politicsmobilizes people to large-scale social change suggests that we should examine how relationsbetween the movement and its members are symbolized by general ideas of socialservice, justice, nationality, etc. At the same time, the important context of youthidentities in Nepal's post-conflict period offers an opportunity to explore how configurationsof membership in the Maoist movement become expressed through the potentialityand significance of a special cultural identity as youth. The case I present, however, isnot only located in the interstices between youth and revolution. It simultaneouslyDas & Deborah Poole (2004), I see subjectivity as the outcome of a process of „biopower‟ the effects ofwhich are far-reaching but never stable and hence offer multiple ways of inhabiting these subjectpositions.If the power and enunciation of viable subject-positions circumscribe sanctionable forms oflife, it is the specific imaginaries and practices through which historically-situated actors engage withthese positions and seek to turn them into particular and meaningful life-forms – what Foucault calls „ethics‟(1984:48) – that point to the processes of subjectivity I am interested in here.7 With the global rise of youth identities over the past decades (UN 2005), young people have increasinglycome to take center stage in intergenerational configurations of society and politics (Gale & Fahey2005; Nash 2005), not least in South Asia where dynamics of globalization and structural inequalitieshave changed patterns of mobility and mobilization (Kumar 2008; Cross 2009; Jeffrey 2010; Sundar2010). Mobilization to radical politics has, in particular, been shown to occur around collective identities(Mazumdar 1995; Hansen 1999), masculinity (Donner 2009), and processes of alienation (Banerjee 2009)or individual (un)certainties (Shah 2009), and has opened up a fruitful field of analysis in the intersticesbetween agency and ideology (Kunnath 2006; Gorringe 2010; Chitralekha 2010). Furthermore, as evidencedby recent scholarly work in the context of violence and conflict (Richards 1996; Utas 2003), ideasof youth are particularly prone to being mobilized to large-scale social transformation due to the wayyoung people are seen to inhabit the crevices between the old and new order and can assume a position as„social shifters‟ (Durham 2004). In such environments, youth has been shown to denote a precarious socialposition that is sought optimized through 'navigating' the social terrain (Vigh 2006; 2009), allowingfor a complex notion of agency that is straddled between 'being' and 'becoming' (Christiansen et al. 2006),between the structural parameters of social position and the social imaginaries (Taylor 2002) of new identities.10


I N T R O D U C T I O Nidentity processes (Pratt 2003; Edelman 2001). Because movements are active participantsin society they do not have rigid boundaries but operate through intricate processesof inclusion and exclusion where they position themselves as simultaneously insideand outside communities, in „a history of enduring “opposition”‟ (Pratt 2003:10). I shallbe investigating the complex configurations of youth in post-conflict Nepal as an identitythat runs along two axes: between an inclusive national identity in which youth havea special role to play, and as a non-political idea of youth as a generational category dividedby social positions.To understand the organizational context within which cadreship unfolds, I examinethe processes through which cadres are trained and deployed as activists followingthe institutionalization of their roles inside the organizational frames of the YoungCommunist League. The YCL prides itself on being a tightly-organized movement witha strict discipline, and I focus on how positions are perceived and performed and resultin quite tangible subject-positions. In this organizational matrix, I approach the subjectalong Foucauldian lines, as both an object of intervention – something that is moldedthrough „disciplines‟ (Foucault 1984) – and as an effect of these very processes. Thismeans that cadres are actualized as subjects by their localization in the organizationalcum-discursivematrix and such a relationship between cadres and the Maoist organizationrequires paying special attention to the role of the camp. The YCL camp is a stronginstitution that clearly distributes roles through which cadres come to relate to each otherbut, as subject-positions, these roles also describe identities within which they candevelop as cadres. By treating this under one heading – the cadre-subject – I chart theconstitution of members through the way they live, relate and imagine themselves in thealtered social landscape of the YCL camp in order to analyze how cadres are formedand the „ethics‟ of the subject (ibid.:48) that is established within this organizational matrix.Revolutionary subjectivityThe analytical frame of cadreship that I have sketched is a first step in exploring howyoung people become activists through the rise of new identities and within specific institutionalmatrixes. Supplementing this approach, I employ a particular exploration ofrevolutionary subjectivity that considers the identification shifts peculiar to the revolutionaryself. Departing from a variegated body of literature, 8 I am interested in translat-8 Since the advent of modern social revolutions, the intricate relationship between political change and thesubjectivity of individual participants has preoccupied researchers and theoreticians of revolutions, rangingfrom investigations of a general revolutionary spirit (Arendt 2006), emotional motivation (Kimmel1991), violence (Ciccariello-Mahler 2007; Finlay 2006) and morality (Judson 1984; Kapcia 2005) to pro-12


I N T R O D U C T I O Ncate ways in which selves are formed within discursive and institutional structures(Mahmood 2005). The question she raises is the process by which people turn themselvesinto subjects, and the crucial insight here is that it is through actively engagingwith, and even submitting to, such a subject-position that people become ethical. In thismodel, the search for improvement is what leads persons to engage with new discoursesand practices that reform selves, bodies and desires through the establishment of moralsystems, which are formative in turning people into fuller and qualitatively 'better' beings.As such, the formation of the ethical subject hinges on the ability to subordinateoneself to a moral system. Transferred to the Nepali context, this means that we shouldnot ask what the revolutionary subject believes but rather what an ethical revolutionarydoes, and this in turn requires paying detailed attention to how cadre life is structured,with its own hierarchies and moral systems. It is in this dynamic between cadres' subordinationto a program of moral reform in their everyday lives in the camp, and the horizonof an ethical revolutionary identity which they aspire to that I locate my search forrevolutionary subjectivity.Formulating dynamics of activism around collective identities and the subjectivityof cadreship raises the question of how to recognize the limits of this formation of Maoistcadres. When does it break down, and what is the point at which identification fails?In this study, I locate the fissures between persons and subjectivization processes in cadres‟inability to fit into the roles they are assigned. Cadres struggle, not primarily withdeveloping „secondary adjustments‟ to supplement their official performances (Goffman1961) but with turning the cadre identity into a viable model of being that is individuallymeaningful and can be tied into their own life-histories. Cadres‟ efforts at becomingrevolutionaries compete with other social models of being, and the prospects of failureare at the very frontier of this identification process, in cadres‟ push for self-formationand the conditions in which it fails or becomes with-drawn. This study considers in particularcadres who continued the struggle to become good revolutionaries, although thistook place in a context of the continual failure of other, less dedicated people both before,during and after my fieldwork period. I am interested in the way striving to becomea better cadre through submission does not automatically result in the desired results,and how this prospect of failure derives from the inability of any social project toproduce stable identities due to an inherent lack in the structure of subjectivity (Zizek1989).I use the optics of cadreship and revolutionary subjectivity to analyze how mobilizationto the YCL is framed, which organizational procedures it results in, how cadresinvest themselves through moral and corporeal practices in attaining an identity as revolutionaries,and why it is so easy to fail. In order to understand the entire dynamic be-14


I N T R O D U C T I O Nfice are ritually prepared, and a corresponding process of desacralization after the sacrificethat returns participants to their ordinary state. In this Durkheimian conceptualization,sacrifice involves an exchange with divinity and this is only possible if earthly beingsapproach the quality of the divine, i.e. sacrality. They must therefore be rituallyprepared because otherwise the meeting would be 'incompatible' and have catastrophicresults.Their approach is particularly apt when examining non-martyr sacrifices that do notinvolve being killed and where sacrifice is instead a processual aspect of revolutionarysubjectivity rather than its climax. Sacrifice in such a context is neither spectacular norabrupt but is integrated into the frame of everyday political activism. I utilize thisframework to make sense of the way mobilization in my field describes a practice ofmoving into camps and learning to live according to its codex. The daily grind of cooking,cleaning and waiting that I shall spend much time describing are difficult to fit intoan optic of revolutionary becoming unless we bring in a processual theory of sacrifice.Hubert & Mauss's theory is therefore a very useful optic in the situation I am investigating,where sacrifice has become protracted, and it helps me makes sense of how the cadres'life in the camp might be described as a period of political maturation duringwhich they practice sacrifice on each other and themselves. In Hubert & Mauss‟s conceptualization,sacrifice is not so much an event as a process whereby the sacrifier mustbe ritually separated and follow a host of detailed prescriptions to expel profanity fromhis or her self, and I draw on this idea to examine cadres' lives in the camp, with its routinesand ethical codex as processes of sacralization.Aside from describing a way for persons to undergo changes as a process of ritualpreparation, sacrifice theory lets us interrogate relationships between cadres and theother main participants to the sacrifice: beside the sacrifier, which cadres represent inmy analysis, these are the sacrificer who prepares the sacrifier and guides him or her inthe process of sacrifice; the witnesses to the sacrifice; the figure of the divine that representsthe sacred; and lastly the victim. The figure of the victim is particularly potent andhas inspired a long line of discussions on how blood-sacrifices in particularly serve torejuvenate divine powers (Frazer 1994) or human communities (Girard 1977) by actingas a medium of communication between the sacred and profane realms (Hubert &Mauss 1964). It is through the destruction of a victim, whether human or otherwise, thatsacrifices draw their potency, but whereas the figure of the victim is easily identifiablein situations of war, it is much more opaque in the case I describe where no-one – oronly very few – are actually being killed. Recognizing the importance of the victim forsomething to be a sacrifice, this ethnography is in a way a search for the victim in postwarrevolutionary sacrifice; clearly, it is no longer an individual‟s entire being that is16


I N T R O D U C T I O Ndestroyed but, if the victim is no longer identical with biological life, what form, orforms, has it taken instead?To explore these wider aspects of the personal sacrifice, we touch upon three importanttheoretical traditions in the sacrifice literature that I shall make implicit or explicitreferences to, and which returns us to the problem of subjectivity. Where Hubert& Mauss‟s Durkheimian model of sacralization has the benefit of providing an optic forunderstanding the multiple and often contradictory relationships between cadres, theirlives in the camp and the ones they have left behind, it is however more limited inthrowing light on how sacrifice involves a personal investment of the self; how becominga revolutionary requires cadres to undergo personal change. The first of these traditionsthat I shall build on is the theory of substitutive sacrifices in which an object is offeredin substitution for something else (Smith & Doniger 1989), a structural relationthat helps us appreciate the way cadres turn themselves into victims when a proper externalenemy is unavailable. The second tradition for thinking about sacrifice is specificallyHindu and has to do with the relationship between warriors, desire and ascetism(Das 1983; Hausner 2007; Blom Hansen 2005), which I will seek inspiration from whenexploring configurations of revolutionary morality, particularly in the specific linkagesbetween Hinduism and public authority in Nepal (Burghart 1996a; 1996b; van den Hoek1990). The last tradition draws on the literature of initiation rites (Van Gennep 1960;Turner 1969) to explore the dynamic between self-sacrifice and regeneration of identity,thus allowing a temporal loss of vitality to be regained from an external source (Bloch1991). Together, these three perspectives allow me to investigate a range of apparentparadoxes in the post-conflict revolutionaries, such as how sacrifice becomes reduced torequirements for ethical personhood, or how YCL cadres can be cast as soldiers in amilitant youth organization when their lives are reminiscent of ascetics, and lastly howthey volunteer to take part in the revolution and then end up in a small and closed communityengaged in a range of self-sacrifices.In sum, the analytical framework I have sketched combines three different approachesthrough which I explore Maoist activism and with which I try to make sense ofmy ethnographic material whereby a commitment to political struggle by newcomer cadrestook the overriding form of working and waiting in YCL camps. The combinationof theories I have presented – cadreship, revolutionary subjectivity, sacrifice – is an effortto formulate a theoretical perspective from which to bring these expressions of activisminto a logical frame, departing from cadres‟ daily struggles with turning themselvesinto revolutionaries and investigating the forms that their engagement with theMaoist project takes. It is, I suggest, by linking processes of self-making with concreteinstitutional values and dynamics that we may arrive at an anthropological perspective17


I N T R O D U C T I O Non political activism, one that looks into the specific organization of subjectivities andhow these generate the energy and expressions through which particular political formsare shaped. YCL activism was, in crucial ways, shaped by the identities cadres were beingrecruited to embrace and by the way the production of cadre subjectivities, with itspositions and ideas, empowered people to act. The theoretical perspective I have tracedis an effort at capturing this symbolic framework for constituting political identities andis an optic that grows out of the historically specific phenomenon that Nepali Maoismis.FIELDWORK, METHODS AND ETHICSActivism in Nepal is very visible; it spills into the streets and the public sphere, deliberatelyinterfering with the busy operations of city life to make itself known and recognizablethrough parades and political happenings. The forms of this activism are not atfirst sight so different whether one considers the CPN-M or other political and socialpressure groups that use concerted action and sloganeering to push limited agendas inKathmandu‟s politicized urban environment. Yet, for the Maoists, protest goes hand-inhandwith building relationships with the public through social service provision andother pro-community campaigns that are integral aspects, albeit less conspicuous, of theparty‟s vision of being a platform for change. I wanted to get into this field but also behindits façade, to understand the nature of this activism, its goals and protagonists in away that did not take its controversial expressions of disruption and violence as an analyticalor methodological starting point and yet found a fruitful position from which toinvestigate it.From the outset, I was interested in investigating the newcomers to activism ratherthan the experienced members because I expected that, with CPN-M‟s transition to anurban-based political movement, the prospects of the Maoist project, and the changes topolitical culture in general, would be found in how the coming generation of activistswere trained to a reformed vision of legitimate political struggle. 11 The most immediateconsequence of this decision was to turn the focus away from party leaders and other11 This was in line with a recent focus in political anthropology on studying the state from itsmargins because it provides a privileged analytical point for understanding authority, sovereigntyand legitimacy (Das and Poole 2004). The YCL appeared to be a privileged field for investigatingthe constitution of a new political culture because it was clearly a heftily contested phenomena,with the party on the one side seeking to boost the organization and its image, and civilsociety representatives, public sentiment and rival political parties deriding it for being violentand undemocratic. In this sense, it was a „double‟ margin: the YCL at the margins of politicallegitimacy, and the junior cadres at the margins of the party.18


I N T R O D U C T I O Ncentral public figures, and therefore to prioritize a fieldwork away from the buzzingspotlight of centrally important events and strategies, and to delve into the mundane androutine aspects of activism. I was deliberately not interested in recording the opinions ofa large number of different Maoist leaders and documenting this elite perspective on thepolitical transition but in investigating what kind of changes it led to on an organizationallevel and how it registered among ordinary members whose experiences of activismwere not well known.The combination of these two priorities – to study the underbelly of Maoist activismand to privilege ordinary cadres‟ perspectives – led me to focus on the trainingcamps and party offices of full-time members. These were the YCL‟s operational unitswhere the majority of its members resided and coordinated their activities from. Theadvantage of focusing on these Area Offices of which there were 15 in Kathmandu, wasthat it gave me access to a level of the organization that would have been impossible tostudy from higher up in the party machinery and it provided me with a tangible site ofactivist practice outside the spectacularity of events. These local party offices, the YCLcamps, are nodal points for connecting leadership strategies with the grassroots, as theyare central hubs for coordinating activities in the neighborhood, for holding informalmeetings, and for meeting up with other party members in the area.One does not, however, just walk into a YCL camp and start researching its members.The CPN-M is a hierarchically organized movement that prides itself on its verticallines of integration, and access to the lower echelons of the party must be negotiatedthrough the layers of leaders above it. I made my way down through this hierarchy overa period of three weeks until I was given the phone number of two or three YCL campleaders, one of which was willing to accommodate my research objectives now that hisleaders had consented. To study a hierarchical organization such as the YCL requiresfitting into its structure and, since every member is placed on a fixed level with correspondingareas of responsibility and access, the same came to apply to me, even if I wasnot a member. My primary position in this matrix was the Nayabasti camp with Pradeep,the In-Charge, as my leader and gatekeeper and, while it opened up access to thecamp and its social environment, where I could come and go as I liked, it effectivelyrestricted my movement outside the Jorpati area. One of my original intentions, to researchtwo different YCL camps for comparative purposes, therefore had to be dropped,and I focused instead on combining the detailed fieldwork in Nayabasti with a range ofother methods to expand the field that I shall detail below.Added to this methodological complication of immobility was another aspect of doingfieldwork in – not just tightly controlled organizations – but conflictual environmentswhere knowledge becomes politicized and is patrolled. YCL leaders were cau-19


I N T R O D U C T I O Ntious about their image, acutely aware of the public opinion mounted against them, andseveral were somewhat suspicious of my intentions. This did have some impact on myaccess to knowledge of organizational operations, which could only be provided by theleaders, and my curiosity of the YCL‟s political priorities and economic strategies wasfrowned upon and met with evasiveness and occasionally even hostility. This limitedaccess to the operational and strategic aspects of the YCL as a political organization ledme to refocus my research so that it revolved almost exclusively around cadre experiences,thereby shelving my original intentions to also map and analyze wider organizationalaspects of the Maoist movement. It also led me to focus on the camp as a site forproducing cadre subjectivity and thus to make this institutional world my „village‟ andits culture my principal research objective. What role, I started wondering, did camp lifeplay for the cadres‟ activism and for the leaderships‟ mobilization strategies?Nayabasti thereby became my primary research field and the institutional spacewithin which I was positioned. As a „guest‟ in the YCL, I was allowed to participate inalmost everything that happened in the camp but would never be invited to official partymeetings and to some of the assignments cadres were mobilized for, particularly whatthey called „security operations‟. Clearly, this was first and foremost meant to protectme – a party guest in the care of a lower-level YCL leader – and cadres were happy toshare information about their whereabouts afterwards, but the result was that I oftenstayed behind in the camp with the remaining (and more junior cadres) who were alsoalways the last to be mobilized. Turning these methodological circumstances into thebasis of an ethnographic exploration, I shifted my attention to the nature of this immobilitythat I shared with the junior cadres when I was in the camp. What did it mean, Istarted asking, to be mobilized to revolution and then end up sitting on a roof in a suburbanneighborhood with the impression that one was learning about and doing „politics‟,as cadres repeatedly told me?The majority of my fieldwork data stems from close observation in Nayabasti andfrom repeated interviews with its members on a wide variety of topics. This is where Icame to spend most days in the field over a period of eight months, hanging out with thecadres to get a sense of the rhythm of camp life while probing them about their reasonsfor joining, relations with family and friends, tracing their life histories, and seeking tounderstand their experiences of cadre life as well as their prospects for the future. Nayabastihad three tiers of members (see Appendix 5): the two eldest, Pradeep and his righthandman Nischal, were the most senior leaders; below them were a handful of middleleaders, and both these groups held leadership positions in the party's committees at differentlevels and had been members in other wings of the party during the People's War;the third group was the post-conflict members who were on average a number of years20


I N T R O D U C T I O Nyounger than the middle leaders and mobilized directly into the YCL from within thelocality. While I developed close relations with most of Nayabasti‟s less than thirty fulltimecadres, I was methodologically most interested in focusing on the peace-time cadreswho comprised two-thirds of the camp‟s members, including the only three womenin the camp.My position in the field was reflected in the kind of relationships I developed withNayabasti‟s three groups of members. Pradeep would act as my superordinate in all ourinteractions, and though I mainly experienced this as control, he was also being protectiveof me, as if I were his cadre. With the middle-leaders, including Nischal, I felt astrong sense of equanimity and resonance. We would enjoy many long talks on everythingfrom TV shows to why there have been so few revolutions in Africa, and theywould query me endlessly about life in Denmark, critical about its loose social integrationbut otherwise respectful of how developed it was. To the young cadres, who sawme as a senior and were neither particularly interested in discussing politics with me orknowing my history, I was mainly just fun to have around. I offered them English lessons,bought books and magazines they could read, introduced them to war movies, letthem listen to my portable music player and, with my clumsy Nepali and weird questions,I broke some routines and interrupted the flow of camp life.Nayabasti, as my primary field site, was both a blessing and a challenge. It made iteasy to observe cadre life and the underbelly of activism but it was surprisingly difficultto study. Cadres‟ lives were divided between three types of undertakings: either theywere engaged in chores such as washing, cleaning and cooking or else they were offdutyand would watch TV, take naps, read or hang out in small groups. Lastly, theywould be called for work outside the camp. I would generally accompany cadres in theirdifferent activities but the problem was that they were predominantly off-duty and in therestricted spaces of the camp, this translated into inactivity. How do you carry out ethnographicfieldwork when nothing is happening? As people were dozing, sitting aloneand reading, or half-heartedly watching a Hindi movie, I soon found that neither observationnor participation yielded very satisfying data. There is a limit to how much evenanthropologists can get out of watching the absence of talk and movement and I oftenfound myself walking from room to room desperately looking for someone who wasdoing something other than passive relaxing.I therefore often tried to pick up conversations but this also had its limitations astalking was hierarchically structured and the higher ranked seniors would reply ratherthan some of the younger ones that I was trying to engage with. During interviews, onthe other hand, which I tried to keep private in order to avoid exactly this kind of situation,my position as a senior and the cadres' as apprentices often inhibited the flow of21


I N T R O D U C T I O Nthese conversations. Even after months of talking with the same two handfuls of people,I still felt that many were responding to me as if I were a leader testing them on theirknowledge, and this applied even when I asked very personal questions. The most bizarreexample I encountered was one cadre with whom I talked about what happinessmeant to him. Although I saw this as an invitation to an unrestrained and very personalstory, it only put him under a great deal of pressure to find a proper answer that did notrevolve around himself but reflected his sacrifice and commitment to the party, and hehad to flip through his notebook with leaders' speeches and revolutionary quotes for anappropriate formulation. After the interview, he apologized that he had not been betterat answering my question, but that he had found the questions quite difficult. Next time,he promised, he would do better.In a situation where talk was either absent or highly schematized and cadres partookin routines of work and related through their positions in the internal hierarchy, thechallenge for me was to produce an in-depth knowledge of a field that was somehowintentionally withdrawn while penetrated by a formality that I was uncertain about howto approach. As anthropologists, we rely much more than is often admitted on our protagonists‟willingness to talk about themselves, to tell us stories and to express theiropinions – information that we can then turn into scientific prose. But what do we dowhen talk is deliberately absent or stylized such as to become deliberately unpersonal?This raises important questions to a political anthropology that considers the formationof revolutionary subjectivities as does this one: how do we give voice to people who donot wish to speak and for whom silence is a virtue that corresponds to their position asnovices?We are used to thinking about organizations as formal and life within them as informalbut, with the YCL and its camps, it seemed that it was the other way around.Nayabasti, as with other YCL offices I visited, had a complete lack of institutional signifiers,starting with the absence of any sign outside the camp that this was not just anordinary household residence. Relations between members, on the other hand, had anair of formality about them which reflected that its members took cadre life quite seriously.Often, when cadres wanted to talk to me about more private stuff – what theythought about sex and romance, or how they felt about their kinship obligations – thisusually took place outside the camp, in tea shops, or during strolls around the neighborhood.Inside the camp, I was told, it was not „appropriate‟ to talk about private issuesbecause that was not why they had signed up for the YCL. As a strong institution withits own organizational culture, cadres were expected to behave „professionally‟ in theircadre roles and it was this professionalism of the revolutionary identity that they werelearning to master with its distinct requirements for conduct. It was therefore not that I22


I N T R O D U C T I O Nhad difficulty in eliciting honest responses from my interlocutors, or that these were notpersonal issues, but rather that cadres were so occupied with fitting into their institutionalroles that little else seemed to matter. 12These dynamics around cadres‟ efforts to become the revolutionaries they hadsigned up for convinced me to pay more attention to how they struggled with this identity– with cadre subjectivity – rather than trying to document all the small irregularitiesof camp life that cadres themselves were embarrassed about when I pointed them out. IfMaoist cadreship was a „mask‟, it seemed relevant to ask how members wore it andturned it into an extension of themselves and to understand how it produced the authorityand self-assuredness of their political engagements. Analytically, the predicaments ofdoing ethnography in a context where expressions of formality are not seen as façadesbeneath which the „real‟ individual hides but rather the very form through which cadresare seen to develop and therefore also the role that they are invested in, requires shiftingfocus from trying to dig out the „private‟ individual buried under the weight of institutionaland discursive formations to an investigation of how these forms are themselvesproductive of subjectivity. To understand this, I resorted to detailed observations of dailylife, taking note of who came and went, who were on duty and who could relax, whatpeople were doing and how they interacted. But it was also extremely helpful to listenattentively to the explanations offered by cadres and leaders about the role of work andthe organizational set-up in forming revolutionaries, to pay attention to how relationshipsbetween members were expressed and negotiated, and to listen to leaders‟ speechesand instructions despite the easily recognizable rhetoric. Furthermore, I regularly interviewedcadres and leaders on various aspects of camp life, tracing their life stories orengaging them in discussions about specific events they had participated in to draw anuanced picture of their experiences and perceptions. The way in which cadres‟ appropriatedMaoist idioms to express their political or „professional‟ experiences opened upa fruitful way of exploring the formation of revolutionary subjectivities.The concentrated focus on camp life in my fieldwork offered a unique opportunityfor investigating the way young and new cadres at the party‟s margins were trained andhow they experienced this process in the rather curious mixture between political maturation,daily routines and physical seclusion in a camp. Yet to understand how Nayabastiwas located within the wider field of Maoist activism, I had to employ a range of12 During the Dashain holidays in late September, for instance, I followed a group of cadres back to theirvillages for five days, on their first leave from the YCL after one year. This was not, as one might haveimagined, an opportunity to throw off the performance tied to an institutionally-backed cadre identity butrather an occasion for cadres to explain their decisions to become Maoists to family members and to playout their new political identities in a receptive environment where they were suddenly no longer novicesbut experienced activists who recited political poems in public village gatherings and lectured the oldgeneration on how to resolve community conflicts.23


I N T R O D U C T I O Nstrategies for extending my field in different directions. First of all, I was continuouslyengaged with meeting and interviewing Maoist members from various corners of theorganization, such as YCL leaders or local part-timers, and having access to othermembers‟ perspectives helped me understand the integration of Nayabasti as a functionalunit within the YCL and CPN-M as a whole. Another way in which I extended myfield was by drawing in not only more people but also additional fields in my research:by following the Nayabasti cadres out of the camp to the various places their work tookthem; through conducting surveys in the locality of the work places where cadres hadbeen mobilized from and with young people who were not political activists; by mappingthe political environment in Kathmandu through weekly summaries of news itemsfrom across the spectrum of Nepali media; and by traveling with the cadres back to theirvillages during Dashain – out of their party roles, as it were. These field extensions werea way for me to continuously evaluate the relative significance of my findings fromNayabasti, either by directly asking other members if they had had similar experiences,or by locating it within the wider political and organizational context.Working with marginally positioned people in an organization which is at the sametime reputed to be violent, raised a number of ethical quandaries during my fieldworkand some which have continued to be relevant as I have worked with my material. Fromthe outset, I was careful about how I positioned myself because this would have a lastingimpact on my research assistants. Due to my insufficient language skills, I dependedon translation from Nepali but I also used an assistant to negotiate access to the YCLand the Nayabasti office. Before contacting the CPN-M, I had several meetings with thefirst two assistants I worked with to produce an introductory letter on my work thatwould give them as peripheral and technical role as possible, since their challenge washow to continue working in this environment even after I had left and they were nervousabout getting too involved or associated with the Maoist movement. I thus ended up hiringthree different assistants that would accompany me for different activities and thisway I made them secondary to my profile as a researcher, trying to ensure that theywere not considered to be affiliated to my project and inquiries. Altthough one of myassistants felt he got too close and had to quit, it actually helped the next translator obtaina more peripheral role, since he was only introduced many months after I had startedworking in Nayabasti.The conflictual nature of Nepali politics and the YCL‟s contentious position hasmade me cautious in sharing information that would make it possible to identify thepeople I have worked with and, besides anonymizing my interlocutors (except when itconcerns public figures), I have also abstained from giving too many details about howthe Young Communist League functions as an organization, which is anyway not an24


I N T R O D U C T I O Naspect of my field that I researched, as explained above. This is one, important reasonwhy this dissertation concerns cadres‟ political subjectivities and neither the YCL, themother party (CPN-M), or the Maoist movement as such. The largest dilemma I haveencountered, however, was in my representation of my interlocutors. On one occasion, Ipresented my fieldwork findings in Kathmandu and showed a range of slides from thecamp, including a picture of the cadres taking an afternoon nap. This provoked someonefrom the audience who felt I was making fun of their sincerity, and very well reflectedthe reaction I had received among the cadres when I showed them the same picture: tocounteract the images it was communicating of laziness, the two I had shown it to immediatelyarranged for a new picture to be taken in which they were diligently bent overtheir books studying. This dissertation is an effort to understand precisely this reaction,departing from the criticism of sleeping as a form of laziness. If it is not laziness whichdefines cadres‟ lives in the camp, how then can we understand it? Why this energy investedin recognizing oneself through the trope of „studying‟? In portraying the cadresas „lazy‟, I had not taken their commitment seriously, eventually leading me to reproducethem as the „naïve‟ or „desperate‟ youth that they held in the public image. Theanalytical framework we bring to bear on our data has direct consequences for howpeople are portrayed. By focusing on the cadres through the frame of political subjectivity,I have tried to take this field seriously on its own terms and engage with their commitmentsto become revolutionaries. It is a commitment, as I often show, that is fragileand may fail, but it is sincere and transformative of identities.OUTLINEIn line with the ethnographic focus on cadre mobilization and the analytical one of exploringrevolutionary subjectivity through an investigation of the forms sacrifice havetaken in the post-war context, the dissertation is structured as a parable of cadres‟ processesof revolutionary sacrifice. I start with their recruitment as cadres (Chapter 2),then introduce their submission to party and camp life (Chapter 3), continue by investigatingthe role and function of the camp as a training center (Chapters 3, 4 and 5) andend up with cadres‟ participation in public activism after they have gained the necessaryexperience (Chapters 7 and 8). More than simply a chronological exploration, this outlineconforms to the ways in which cadres are taught to sacrifice through their time inthe camp and prepared through their camp sacrifices to participate in activist work andthereby to turn this into expressions of a public sacrifice. It shows that the camp is astage that cadres‟ must pass through because it prepares them as revolutionaries and that25


I N T R O D U C T I O Nit is only by virtue of possessing this identity that they can transform their activism intopolitically significant events.I start this exploration in the next chapter, where I provide an historical context forunderstanding the rise of the YCL through a discussion of Nepal‟s political developmentin the pre-war, People‟s War and post-war periods. Here I argue that Nepali Maoismis part of a wider democratic revolution which took off in the late 1940s and that theCPN-M‟s project of a specific Maoist revolution has resulted in a paradoxical situationfor the YCL, which is tasked with continuing this revolutionary process in the contextof parliamentary politics that does not recognize the Maoist vision of politics as legitimate.Chapter 2 is the first ethnographic chapter, focusing on the YCL‟s recruitment oflow-class laborers to a program of revolution through class struggle. I examine theframes and idioms of this mobilization process, arguing that becoming a Maoist cadrewas experienced first of all as a shift of perspective, by which I mean that in order toenroll in the CPN-M, incoming cadres had to learn to see themselves as oppressedworking-class youth who had to fight the exploitative structures of a class society in orderto better their own situations and that of Nepal. Tracing how this mobilization processcame to revolve around the identity of youth, I show that cadres were recruited tosacrifice their youth for the sake of „the people‟ and that this involved a willingness thatthey had to change into becoming revolutionaries.Chapter 3 takes us into Nayabasti. This is the cadres‟ first constitutive act of cadreshipand it shows their sincerity to enter the path of revolutionaries. Nayabasti is a paradoxicalplace where cadres are, on the one hand, requested to submit unconditionally totheir new commanders while, on the other, treated with respect and invited to make useof the more experienced in order to develop themselves. I analyze the multiple idiomsof relationship this involves junior cadres in and show how relations of hierarchy andequality are configured so as to experience their lives in the camp as sacrifices, since allare constituted as equal in their contribution to the movement, regardless of position.Chapter 4 tackles the first of the camp sacrifices, namely the daily chores that cadresare involved in. I analyze chores and other activities that correspond to newcomers‟position in the organization as expressive of an ethos of labor that is done for the sake ofthe „collectivity‟ to distinguish it from desires of „selfishness‟. By documenting howcadres practice and speak of chores with reference to these contrasting values, I showthat camp labor can be understood as a sacrifice for the Maoist community whereby cadreslearn what it means to work for a principle beyond oneself and how it becomes expressiveof a distinct Maoist ethic that is juxtaposed with how „youth‟ outside themovement prioritize and work. It is labor which produces these wider ideals of social26


I N T R O D U C T I O NChapter 8 brings the last figure of public sacrifices into focus by discussing whatcadres refer to as „security operations‟. In providing security, cadres are seeking to protectthe public – as an expression of sacred idea of „the people‟ – from becoming „polluted‟by greed, corruption and criminality. The YCL has, since its inception, been preoccupiedwith targeting criminality and this final chapter provides an explanation forthis practice which has less to do with making Kathmandu more safe than with the factthat criminals represent the mirror image of cadres‟ own reformed youth and thereforepose a threat to both their own transformation into revolutionaries and the moral „cleanliness‟of the body politic. In securitizing the public, cadres thereby „realize‟ their sacrificeby turning the figure of the victim onto an external agent, which serves to reinvigoratetheir own sacrifice while providing a „political‟ solution to the structure of revolutionarysacrifice without a war and without soldiers.28


1 THE MAOIST REVOLUTIONNepali Maoism is part of larger regional struggles of state-formation and nation buildingin the 20 th century and draws on international histories and theories of communistmovements, with Marxist theory and Bolshevik and Chinese experiences of revolutionas important sources of inspiration. Following the rise of pro-nationalist and anticolonialpolitical movements in South Asia during the end of the 19 th and beginning ofthe 20 th century, a new political class emerged in Nepal that worked to overthrow centuriesof autocratic rule and establish a national democratic platform, seeking to modernizeboth the political system and society. The Communist Party of Nepal, established inCalcutta in 1949, was a significant aspect of these new political currents and advocatedfor a socialist revolution to overthrow the old socio-political order and establish a classlesssociety. Dwarfed by the influence of the Nepali Congress which successfully representedthe broad pro-democracy struggle for decades, however, it was not until the1990‟s when Congress was losing public support and internal rifts in the communistmovement had solidified into a pro-revolutionary and an establishment front, that Maoismemerged as a powerful alternative to the dominant parties with its program of apeople‟s revolution through a People‟s War.This chapter details the historical development of the Maoist movement and its revolutionaryagenda. The aim is to explain the rise of the YCL in the post-conflict phaseand thereby to provide a frame for the subsequent chapters that deal exclusively withthis last historical period and the question of revolutionary cadreship within the party‟syouth wing. Since 1994, when the CPN-M was formed under the leadership of Prachanda,it had focused on capturing state power and installing a Maoist New Democracy. In2003, the party shifted its strategy towards the completion of a „bourgeois‟ democraticrevolution, which opened up the path for cooperation with other progressive politicalforces and eventually led to the termination of the People‟s War, but which left thequestion of a proletarian revolution unsolved. It was this ambiguous revolutionary environmentthat the YCL was born into, with the result that the entire organization came to


C H A P T E R 1inherit the tension between these two revolutionary visions; on the one hand, by continuingthe ideas and zeitgeist of the revolutionary war while, on the other, by being engulfedin a parliamentary model for political negotiation. Ultimately, this paradoxicalsituation came to define the limits and possibilities of what it meant to be mobilized torevolution after the war was over, and therefore constitutes an important historical contextfor investigating Maoist cadreship in the transition period.While the discourse of revolution has been a major source of inspiration for theYCL as a political phenomenon, it builds in fact on a long history of democratization,nationalization and ideas of development of which the Maoist movement is just one facet.In order to understand the constitution of the YCL and the political expression andexperience of post-war cadres, this chapter traces the major historical trajectories thatled to its establishment, including some of the themes that have inspired the discourseand practice of current political culture. I pursue this discussion chronologically andhave organized the chapter into three broad sections: Pre-War Nepal that deals with theperiod from Nepal‟s unification in 1743 through the first democratic revolution in 1951and the return of monarchy in the Panchayat era (1960-1990), to the restoration of democracyafter 1990; Peoples‟ War (1996-2006) where I chart the war campaign and thedevelopment of new ideas and practices of activism, which considerably altered Nepal‟ssocial and political landscape; and, finally, Post-War Nepal, where I focus on the riseand role of the YCL and the political challenges that the Maoist movement as a wholehad to navigate, and which ultimately came to dominate the unfolding of events duringmy fieldwork period. 1 In describing the history of the Maoist movement from its positionas a participant in a general political struggle for democracy in the pre-war period,through its radical break with a „bourgeois‟ model of democracy in the People‟s War,and then back to an unstable alliance between revolution and negotiation, the chapterillustrates the precarious position of the YCL in the post-war context. 21 As the object of this study is the Maoist revolution rather than the CPN-M and the Maoistmovement, no separate discussion is offered on the history and structure of the party. Since theformation of the Communist Party of Nepal in 1949, Nepal‟s far-left parties have been throughnumerous splits and mergers, reflecting changing historical contexts and internal disagreementsthat have already been well-researched by others (see, in particular, Baral 2006; Upreti 2008;Rawal 2007; Ogura 2008a).2 Communist Parties worldwide have been establishing youth wings that they have named YCLsfor a long time, and the phenomenon is therefore historically familiar. As part of a CommunistInternational, most YCL groups were formed around the October Revolution: 1917 in Russia,1920 in England, 1920 in China, and 1927 in Korea, and combined elements of youth andstrength that had already been part of the boy scout movement with ideas of revolutionarychange. The Nepali YCL is, however, better compared with two more well-known examples ofcommunist societies that have organized young people on a large scale in order to maximizerevolutionary impact in a context of peace, namely the Komsomol in the Soviet Union and the30


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O NPRE-WAR NEPALGeographically, Nepal is a land-locked country, squeezed between the Tibetan Plateauand the Indian plains, and has historically been an important trading post due to its locationon the major trans-Himalayan routes. This strategic position has turned it into a„buffer zone‟ between the interests of its two influential neighbors, China and India(Rose 1963) although the politicization of Nepal‟s geography is also reproduced internally.Nepal is divided into three major ecological zones that follow the rise in altitudefrom the lowlands of the Terai in the south, over the mid-hills where Kathmandu lies,and the high Himalayas that support several of Nepal‟s many ethnic groups. The delineation,which roughly cuts Nepal into three vertical slices, corresponds to a long-standingsocial division based on the supremacy of the mid-hill population known as the parbatiya(literally „people of the mountain‟), who have dominated Nepal culturally and politicallydespite comprising only 40% of the total population (Whelpton 2005:8).State formation and the establishment of the Rana regimeBefore 1768, Nepal did not exist as a state but was made up of several small and largekingdoms, with Kathmandu developing as an urban area under the Malla dynasty from1200 A.D. The rulers of the neighboring kingdom of Gorkha had long been intent onexpanding their realm to include the valley of Kathmandu and this was accomplished in1768 by Prithvi Narayan Shah, who is today considered the founder of Nepal. The endof the 18 th century saw a major reshuffle of regional powers, with both the British EastIndia Company emerging to claim control of Bengal in 1757 and the Chinese strengtheningits control over Tibet, and these variegated nation-building efforts resulted in aseries of conquests and retreats for Nepal. Though Nepal was never colonized, it had toconcede all of its occupations outside present-day Nepal to the British after a series ofdefeats that led to the Treaty of Sagauli in 1816 and the permanent installation of a Britishrepresentative in Kathmandu until 1923.Red Guards in China. Both the Komsomol and the Red Guards were formed under existingcommunist regimes but were quite different phenomena: the Komsomol was closely integratedinto the communist party and a highly institutionalized organization that penetrated other socialinstitutions, most notably schools (Alt & Alt 1964; Gorsuch 1997), while the Red Guards werean anti-establishment student movement that was given free reign to pursue a radical transformativeagenda during the Cultural Revolution (Karnow 1984; Walder 2009). The YCL in Nepalrepresents aspects of both these trends because of its unique position in a society where it issimultaneously part of a popular social movement that has become routinized while also remainingon the outside of mainstream culture, which it seeks to transform by continuing a programof revolution (see also Skar 2008b for a comparison between Nepal‟s YCL and the ChineseRed Guards).31


C H A P T E R 1These experiences of being 'a yam between two rocks' as Prithvi Narayan Shah famouslydeclared his new kingdom (Whelpton 2005:37) has continued to inform Nepal'spolitical imaginary and led its new rulers to lead a defensive and isolationist policy byshutting it off from foreign influences. It was not only Nepal as a whole which was isolatedfrom the tumult of the British colonization efforts, however, but also the life of thepolitical elite from lay Nepalis, and the former quickly degraded into a highly conspiratorialcourt life with shifting alliances and backstabbing which, in 1846, led to the ascendancyof the Rana family as hereditary prime ministers and the relegation of the monarchialShah dynasty to a symbolic figurehead. In the entire period, Nepal was dominatedby an extractive patrimonial state (Riaz & Basu 2007; Gellner 2008) which hadlittle interest in the population outside of generating wealth to finance the lives of asmall elite and, at the time of the democratic revolution a century later, it was only theRanas and their closest allies that were allowed to receive an education or travel abroad(Hoftun et al 1999).The Rana‟s hold on power was a complex arrangement of land entitlements, job rotationsand obligations by which allies and civil servants were kept from conspiring andbuilding up local power bases. The state functioned much like a centralized, patriarchalhousehold, where the ruler owned and decided everything, and interacted with his subjectsby bestowing upon them temporary favors in return for their loyalty and support.Nepali society became marked by such patron-client relations based on a tenurial systemof „state landlordism‟ (Riaz & Basu 2007) whereby upper-caste elites were grantedtemporary land entitlements through which they could secure economic and politicalpower locally. Nepal‟s economic base has always been predominantly agricultural and,in the absence of strong state institutions, local leaders ruled through relationships ofloyalty and dependence. The Rana rulers thus distributed resources among a hierarchyof patron-client networks centered around the royal palace as the only „fountain of privileges‟(ibid.:134), and extended into remote rural areas. The system resulted in fiercecompetition among different client factions over the resources emanating from the samepatron and, while it strengthened the power of the palace, it gave rise to a culture of deferentialgift-giving and subservience, chakari (Bista 1991), through which loyalty andfavors were sought institutionalized. These patron-client relations have continued inmuch the same form until today where political and economic rights converge in thefigure of a patron, and they have led to a political culture organized along clear verticallines of subordination.Underlying the monarchical political order was an elaborate framework of Hinduidentities that provided patron-client networks with cultural legitimacy. Two overallcomponents were essential for establishing this ideological hegemony of Hinduism in32


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O NNepal: one was the social organization of the population along caste lines, and the otherwas the identification of the monarch with the god Vishnu. Neither of these were inventedduring Rana rule but built on a history of Hindu worship and caste-delineationsin Nepal, as was the case in Kathmandu Valley where the dominant ethnic group ofNewaris had long been organized into more than twenty caste levels (Parish 1993).What the new rulers changed was a nation-wide codification of the caste system basedon ideas of ritual purity that covered the entire population, and which made everybody asubject of the king by virtue of his duty to safeguard the purity of the Hindu realm(Gray 1995:5).Nepal‟s demography has always been ethnically, religiously and linguistically diversebut, during the consolidation of the Nepali state, Hindu ideas of purity becameinstitutionalized in a nation-wide caste-system known as the muluki ain code from 1854on (see Höfer 1979). Earlier administrations had introduced the caste system to Nepalbut it now encompassed all people, including the ethnic groups who were lumped togetheras matwali, alcohol drinkers (Gurung 1997). The crux of this organization, as it isalso known from India (Dumont 1970), was a differentiation between pure and impurecastes, with the Bahun (Brahmin) and Chetri (Kshatriya) at the top, and a long list ofcaste groups known as jat below them in order of descending purity (Höfer 1979).While this organization was, for the majority, an artificial categorization that overlaidand negated territorial identities (Parish 1993), it did become authoritative for organizingsocial relations and served to legitimize the historic alliance of upper-caste Newars,the Shah and Rana aristocrats, and rural patrons, who were awarded superior positionsin the caste scheme. The major organizing principle remained purity but the power ofthe elite in fact rested on a complex interplay between issues of purity, warrior-strengthand landownership (Burghart 1996b), which is retained in the distinction between Bahunsand Chetris today: whereas Brahmins claim religious superiority and function aspriests whose principal duty is to study and teach the ancient religious texts, the Chetrisare associated with protection of the social order, and have traditionally been warriors(ibid.:38) or, in peace-time, landowners. Together, they comprise the bulk of the stateadministration and other power positions in society, and are identified as the Cate HillHindu Elite accounting for as many as 80% of leadership positions in important areas ofgovernance (Lawoti 2003:52).In addition to providing a model of social organization and hence of social order, amore political justification of the polity was expressed in the identification of the monarchwith the god Vishnu. In this conceptualization, which has followed the institutionof monarchy up through the centuries, the king is seen as the incarnation of the supremegod, and the country his realm wherein the purity of this Hindu kingdom must be ascer-33


C H A P T E R 1tained. The monarch thus becomes the protector of Hinduism and a natural figure of authorityaround which the entire social organization revolves. Already upon enteringKathmandu, the Gorkha rulers had sought to legitimize their conquest through the blessingof the virgin goddess Kumari, a local Newari tradition (Riaz & Basu 2007:135-136),and a close linkage between religious festivities and royal authority was established thathas continued to this day. This religious hegemony is reflected in the national censuseswhich since 1952 have recorded people's religious affiliation, and which has remainedsteady at 85 to 90% Hindus despite a large increase in the population (Gurung 2001).The society that came to the fore under the rule of, first the Shahs and then theRanas from 1768 and until the middle of the 20th century, was thus deeply divided intoa small landholding political class on the one hand and a non-political majority on theother who lived as peasants; it was hierarchically ranked both socially and economicallyaccording to caste membership and was held together by a Hindu ideology of purity representedby the monarch nationally, and the upper castes locally. Though there weremany ways of resisting the power of the state and its hegemonic Hindu framework (seeGellner 2008), the homogenization and supremacy of parbatiya (hill-caste) culturecame to dominate Nepali society. In addition, few efforts were made at developing thecountry through education, infrastructure, communication or economic programs 3 and,aside from caste classifications, which undermined territorial and ethnic identities, newcommon identities were not sought forged.Democratic revolution and national moderni zationThis changed with the revolution of 1951, the period during which Nepal‟s political partieswere born. The aristocratic rule of the Ranas relied on an isolationist policy thatsought to shield Nepal from outside influences. Following World War I in Europe,however, in which hundreds of thousands of Nepali soldiers participated (Gellner 2008),and the struggle for independence in India with Gandhi's Quit India Movement, dissidencestarted to grow in Nepal, demanding an end to Rana rule and the establishment ofa more inclusive political system. In the 1930s, the Nepal Praja Parishad, to which present-dayMaoists trace their heritage, was one of the first to target the regime and smuggledin a printing press on which leaflets advocating the overthrow of the Ranas werepublished. As has been the case in subsequent opposition to the regime, India provided3 Nepal in 1951 had only 376 kilometers of road, and a very low level of education, with only8,500 primary school students around the country, 11 high schools and a literacy rate of 5.3%(Hoftun et al. 1999.:4-5). Furthermore, the Nepalese economy was exclusively in the hands ofthe Ranas who spent little on public welfare, and the few industries to emerge in the Terai in thethirties came predominantly from India (Devkota 2007:296).34


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O Nboth a sanctuary and an inspiration for building political organizations that could challengethe Nepali state, and Nepal's first political party, the Nepali Congress, was establishedin 1947 in India.The next thing to happen was the cause of some surprise. The king, who had only asymbolic function under the Ranas, dissented to India. On 6 November 1950, after askingthe Rana prime minister for permission to travel to his hunting grounds just north ofthe city, King Tribhuvan led most of his family members through Kathmandu but thenturned off the main road and entered the Indian Embassy, where he immediately appliedfor political asylum (Hoftun et al. 1999:1). This started the avalanche that is now referredto as Nepal's first democratic revolution. 4 The revolution changed the balance ofpower in the country by bringing a new political class to power, primarily from theBrahmin caste, and stripping the Ranas of their privileges. A new constitution was alsopassed outlawing caste discrimination and making everybody equal under the law. Inthe decade that followed, the different political parties sought to reach a common platformfor governing the country but it was an immense challenge to change the patrimonialpolitical order into a democratic model of governance, and the political parties weremarred by individual conflicts, changing coalitions and intrigues that in 1952 had alreadyled King Tribhuvan to dissolve parliament and, only a year later, to give partypoliticians a second chance to form a government (ibid.:26pp). Due to political and socialturmoil, it was only in 1959 that elections were finally held with the Nepali Congressemerging as the winner, and its leader B.P. Koirala becoming Prime Minister.With the Ranas out of the way, the monarch resumed a central political role as headof state. In 1955, King Tribhuvan died and was succeeded by his son, Mahendra, whotook a more paternalistic line with the political parties and was seen by many as a strongfigure who could unite Nepal and create stability. Following his coronation, he conveneda conference with the political groups to discuss the way forward but he oftenclashed with the political parties and turmoil continued to grow, particularly after theNepali Congress tried to implement its election manifesto amidst widespread resistance.Eventually, in 1960, 18 months after the new government had taken office, the kingplaced the government under arrest, outlawed the political parties, and took over the4 As Martin Hoftun and William Raeper have documented in their detailed historical account ofthe event, India had a strong hand in negotiating the terms of the democratic revolution, andthey suggest that the overthrow of the Ranas could not have come earlier because it was onlyafter India gained independence in 1947 that the new leaders in Delhi began to push for a similardevelopment in Nepal (Hoftun et al. 1999:22). Nepal‟s Interim Constitution from 1951 onwas also almost an exact copy of the Indian Constitution (ibid.:25). Throughout the democraticperiod, opposition to what was seen as the „Delhi compromise‟ therefore existed and severalsmall revolts and independence movements sought to challenge the centralized and Indianbackedauthority of Kathmandu.35


C H A P T E R 1administration of the government using the emergency powers vested in him, arguingthat Congress had fostered corruption and was not promoting national interest (Hoftunet al.:71). This autocratic move was neither unexpected nor severely criticized, as manyshared Mahendra's critique of an ill-functioning form of governance which was not beneficialfor Nepal as a whole. The king's role as protector of Nepal had prompted him tomake this move in the service of the nation, just as his father had initiated the revolutiona decade earlier. Tribhuvan had been one of the heroes of the 1950 revolution but Mahendra,in choosing a non-democratic model for developing Nepal, was also acting outhis responsibility towards his people. The Nepali monarch rules over the country notmerely because it is a Hindu realm that he protects but also, in the tradition of the firstShah rulers, because the entire kingdom is his possession, and he therefore also representsthe people living within its bounds (Burghart 1984). It was in this quality as rulerof the nation that Mahendra legitimized his interference in parliamentary democracy.In 1962, Mahendra promulgated a new constitution that established a partyless democracythrough panchayats (councils) from village level up that included representativesfrom different class organizations and were integrated into a nation-wide pyramidstructure with the 125-member strong Rastriya Panchayat (national council) at the top.The monarch held absolute power with sole authority over all governmental institutions,and although it underwent some change in 1975 and again in 1980 after a national referendum,this system lasted for almost 30 years and was extremely influential in definingwhat Nepal is today. Inspired by the debates of the preceding decade, King Mahendraembarked on a process of modernization and development that was extensively financedthrough bilateral foreign aid and which focused on agriculture, health, education, commerceand infrastructure. 5 However he also emphasized the importance of unity andpromoted a one-nation-one-people policy to integrate the diverse ethnic groups and regionsinto a singular Nepali national bond through the slogan „one language, one dress,one country‟ (Gellner 2008:10). Central to this vision was the idea that the populationwere no longer simply subjects of their rulers but rather citizens in a common nationalpolity (Pfaff-Czarnecka 1997). The regime espoused an ideology of modernization centeredaround the notion of development, bikas, which spawned new identifications forboth rural and urban populations (Pigg 1992), and a nation-wide education system was5 Nepal‟s dependence on foreign aid has reflected its strategic geopolitical location with the US,India, China, the British and the Soviet Union all vying for influence through donor money (seeJohn Whelpton‟s excellent history of these aid confluences, Whelpton 2005:125-137). Increasingly,aid has been channeled through inter-state agencies such as the World DevelopmentBank, which the country started to negotiate structural loans from in the mid-80s. Recent analyseshave shown the continued influence of donor discourse in Nepali politics (Shah 2008a) andone influential think-tank has even suggested that development aid contributed to the levels ofviolence during the People‟s War (FIC 2009).36


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O Nestablished that incorporated these modernizing links between cultural identities anddevelopment. Under the portrait of His Majesty the King, which all schools were instructedto display, and through the recitation of the national anthem each morning,which also became compulsory, Nepal's children were presented with a common historicalnarrative of modernization that stretched from the braveness of the nation's founder,Prihvi Naryan Shah, to the hopeful promises of development. This way, Nepal's road tomodernity, and hence to democracy, became enshrined in a nationalizing strategy linking(national) progress with (national) heroism, and which became known as the bir(bravery) to bikas (development) narrative (Onta 1996). 6What made the Panchayat era interesting was therefore the way in which it clearlycontinued the project of modernization that had been kick-started with the 1950 revolutionbut did so by emphasizing national unity and social development instead of politicalchange. It was a system of 'guided' democracy (Pfaff-Czarnecka 1997) whereby societywas, instead, divided into six state-sponsored class organizations that replaced political,ethnic or regional alliances and represented legitimate social diversity; thesewere the peasants, laborers, students, women, former military personnel and collegegraduates. Once again, the king's historic link with Hinduism was stressed in order toseal this political arrangement and it was spread by means of the education system andelaborate state rituals aimed at underlining the monarch's politico-religious authorityand his mediating role between the gods and the Hindu realm of Nepal. The king's dutywas to guarantee harmony and solidarity within his realm and this also epitomized theconceptualization of social order in which conflict and dissent should be limited becausethey threatened to break the integrity of society (Burghart 1996b).The political parties, banned since 1960, were seen to represent 'factional' interestsand were therefore inappropriate for a national development that stressed a commonidentity of Nepalis and social integration. Many former party members had been arrested,gone into exile or become members of the Panchayat system that defined new linesof privilege. Opposition was brewing, however, and became more vociferous (if lessviolent 7 ) after King Mahendra was succeeded by his 27-year old son Birendra in 19726 Nepal‟s education system was one of the significant areas to develop in the Panchayat era andwas strengthened in the early 1970s with King Birendra‟s New Education System Plan, whichbrought most schools and colleges into an integrated national structure under government controland expanded primary and secondary education by building schools in the rural areas(Whelpton 2005:137). Enrolment in education soared: from 1,680 pupils in secondary school in1950 to 421,709 in 1991/1992, with a similar rise in higher education (from 250 to 110,329 inthe same period). Schools became commonplace and, by 1991, 40% of the population was literatecompared with 5.3% at the time of the 1952/54 census (Hotun et al. 1999:95-96).7 Burghart and Gaenzle have argued that, whereas the first decade of opposition was primarilymarked by violent struggles, the 70s marked a shift in which opposition leaders returned from37


C H A P T E R 1and expectations for a loosening of the tight control on political activity were not forthcoming.Following the 1960 royal take-over, the Nepali Congress had already built asmall guerilla army of around 3,000 people, which attacked various government installationsand was a considerable threat to the king in 1961-62 (Hoftun et al. 1999:72pp).And, in 1971, a small communist uprising in Jhapa in southeastern Nepal started a campaignof killing „class enemies‟. Pressure mounted on Mahendra's 'partyless' democracyand, following a series of student protests in 1979, a nation-wide referendum was announcedin which people were asked to decide whether they wished to continue with theexisting system or return to a multi-party platform.While the vote came out in favor of Mahendra's model, political control was partiallyloosened in the eighties as the Panchayat system slowly but steadily succumbed tothe pressures for change. In response to rising discontent, the political student unionsthat had been allowed to operate in a „non-partisan‟ form throughout the 60s and 70sbecame the official mouth-pieces of the banned mother parties and organized their politicalprograms since the parties could not do so (Snellinger 2005). Society also changed.This was the decade in which a new class of property owners emerged, transferringsome of the wealth that flowed into society through international development effortsand investing it in urban property, thereby starting an urbanization and the rise of themiddle-class (Liechty 2003; see also Hachhethu 1990:190ff). Mahendra had built hismodel of modernization on a double strategy of isolation and integration, trying to protectNepal from confusing forces and ideas outside the country while highlighting internalunity through the building of a common identity. This homogenization of identityundercut Nepal's demographic diversity and paid lip service to the vast inequalities anddiscriminatory practices that existed between the higher and lower strata of Nepali society.With the partial loosening of political control and the emergence of a new urbanmiddle-class in the eighties, this model began to smolder, and protest against the regimeincreased, involving strikes and demonstrations (Burghart 1996c).The second wave of democracy and the rise of the MaoistsFollowing an Indian embargo in March 1989 that resulted in shortfalls in basic amenitiesand led to a wave of protests against the Panchayat government, Nepal experiencedits second democratic revolution. Over a period of 50 days commencing on Februaryexile and started to extend their organizations, which, of course, „did not officially exist‟(Burghart & Gaenzle 1991:6). Hence started the practice, also known from Communist EasternEurope (Yurchak 1997; Havel 1985) and analyzed impressively by Burghart (1996), by whichpeople led a kind of double life; outwardly pretending to accept the political order while privatelyopposing the Panchayat system and treating it with cynicism.38


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O N18, 1990 – coinciding with „Democracy Day‟ since it was the 39th anniversary of KingTribhuvan's declaration of multi-party democracy in 1951 – a series of spontaneous protestsand mass demonstrations swept through Nepal's major urban centers. Just a fewweeks earlier, a coalition of the seven Communist factions known as the United LeftFront had come together with the Nepali Congress to launch the Movement for the Restorationof Democracy. People flocked to the streets demanding fundamental rights andan end to the partyless system, and several successful demonstrations were held. Thegovernment took harsh measures in trying to quell the protest and arrested several politicalleaders, and by the time King Birendra had lifted the ban on political parties in mid-April, dissolved the Rastriya Panchayat and nominated the leader of the Nepali Congressas Prime Minister of an interim government, more than 50 people had died andmany more been injured (Hoftun et al. 1999:148). By November 1990, a new constitutionproclaiming a multiparty system, fundamental rights for its citizens, and the reductionof the king‟s role to that of a constitutional monarch had been approved and, inMay 1991, the first post-Panchayat government was elected.Two things had changed from the first to the second revolution that are significantfor understanding the rise of the Maoist movement. The first was the sidelining of theking, and the second was ordinary people's participation in demanding regime change.The 1950 revolution had primarily been negotiated between the king, the Ranas, thecentral political leaders and Indian officials but, in 1990, the king was sidelined, Indiawas part of the problem, 8 and it was through a People's Movement, Jana Andolan I, thata multi-party platform resurfaced (Hoftun et al. 1999). This gave rise to the idea of'people power' (Kondos 1994), that social and political change could be affected directlyby the agency of lay citizens irrespective of their status in the caste and elite hierarchy.During the protests of the 80s, the perceptions of agency that informed protest were stillbased on a Hindu cosmology whereby the king was the ultimate protector of the realm,and his subjects' duty was to inform his Majesty if something was wrong within the polity(Burghart 1996c); the power to direct change therefore lay with the monarch. But the8 India‟s role in the 1990 revolution was in fact a little more complex. It had been a disagreementover a 1950 trade agreement that had prompted India to impose its blockade in 1989,which sparked the first wave of protests, but Indian leaders had also given their vocal support tothe democracy movement, most notably in a speech by Chandra Shekhar (a leader of the IndianJanata party which was then in government) in Kathmandu in open defiance of Panchayat authorityonly a month before the protests started (Hoftun et al. 1999:117). It is worth noting,though, that the image of India as an aggressive player in regional politics was, and still is, animportant backdrop against which to appreciate domestic politics in Nepal. Since India‟s defeatof the Pakistan army in 1971 and the absorption of the kingdom of Sikkim in 1974, which wasregarded in Nepal as blatant expansionism (Whelpton 2005:102), Indian strategic interests havebeen considered to dominate Nepal‟s internal affairs, and this is viewed with deep suspicion(Upreti 2003).39


C H A P T E R 1protests of 1990 popularized and cemented the idea that the ultimate authority to rulelay directly with the people. It was essentially this logic which led to the political openingin 1990, and the advent of people power heralded a new era in which it was the peoplewho ruled and not the king. The People's Movement therefore marked a turningpoint in the consolidation of public authority in Nepal, as it prompted a change from theking's sovereignty as the hegemonic model of political authority to a constitutionalmonarch where he was subjected to the collective will of the people, and not the otherway around. 9The new post-Panchayat platform was also a clear victory for the political partiesand their long campaign to overturn the partyless system. The Nepali Congress, in particular,symbolized this long democratic struggle and, just as it had won the last parliamentaryelections in 1959, it also emerged a winner in 1991, with 110 out of 205 seats.Despite ideological differences, the political forces which, in the post-1990 period, crystallizedinto competing parties all grew out of a long history of opposition to autocracyand experiences of working underground or serving time in jail together. Nepal‟s politicalclass at that time consisted of a relative small clique of educated, high-caste, elite,male activists, and many of the leaders have historically been able to work together inthe interests of a common democratic struggle, as was the case during the Jana AndolanI in 1990 (Hachhethu 1990). Present-day political leaders, the CPN-M included, are - toan extent - part of this shared history of struggle and shared ideology of a democraticNepal. When the Maoist movement launched its war a few years later, it was in thisspirit of an ongoing democratic struggle that they felt needed a different form to succeed.The Maoists had grown out of the clandestine opposition environment during thePanchayat years. During the polarized political environment of the 1960s, the CommunistParty of Nepal splintered into many smaller groups with a major fault line betweenthose who preferred to work together with the king and those who demanded therestoration of parliament. Following the Sino-Soviet split in international communistmovements, radicals from the latter faction in 1974 established the pro-Moscow CPN-Fourth Convention under the leadership of Nirmal Lama and Mohan Bikram Singh and,in contrast to the pro-establishment CPN, which stressed the need to cooperate with allpolitical forces in order to overthrow the monarchy, the Fourth Convention wanted tobegin a People's Movement and called for a constituent assembly (Whelpton 2005:106).9 This was clarified in the preamble to the 1990 constitution. The very first lines read: 'We areconvinced that the source of sovereign authority of the independent and sovereign Nepal is inherentin the people, and, therefore, we have, from time to time, made known our desire to conductthe government of the country in consonance with the popular will'.40


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O NDuring the 1980 referendum, the Fourth Convention took a soft approach to the election,neither boycotting nor endorsing it but agitating for fair „preconditions‟ (Hoftun etal. 1999:92). The lack of support for a hardline approach to the regime among the majorityof its members (Ogura 2008a:9) led Mohan Bikram Singh to establish the breakawayfaction CPN-Masal in 1983. Only two years later, however, this faction splinteredonce more as Mohan Vadiya, now one of the current top CPN-M leaders, establishedthe CPN-Mashal due largely to personal conflicts with Mohan Bikram Singh (Cailmail2009). Influenced by the Revolutionary International Movement established in 1984 inFrance, and the Maoist-inspired armed insurrection of the Shining Path in Peru, theCPN-Mashal attempted to launch an urban revolt in 1989 but this was quickly broughtunder control and it ended in the arrest – and exposure – of many of its cadres. MohanVadiya subsequently resigned from the leadership position and Pushpa Kamal Dahal,alias Prachanda, became its new General Secretary.When the major Communist groupings formed the United Left Front in preparationfor the Jana Andolan I, the CPN-Fourth Convention, CPN-Mashal and CPN-Masalcame together and formed their own front, the United National People‟s Movement.They had been influential during the climax to the 1990 revolution (Hoftun et al.1999:129) but rejected the compromises that the major political parties had concededand, in their eyes, the new constitution was not valid because it had not been drawn upby an elected Constituent Assembly (Millard 2008:284). In November 1990, the Maoistgroups in the United National People‟s Movement merged to form a new CommunistParty, the CPN-Unity Centre under the leadership of Prachanda. The question of armedstruggle, which had been a primary concern for many of the Maoist factions‟ membersduring the 70s and 80s, was adopted at the first Unity Congress in 1991. This led to anintra-party debate between Prachanda‟s faction, which wanted to adopt a Maoist-styleguerilla war, and Nirmal Lama (the leader of the CPN-Fourth Convention) who favoreda Russian-style general insurrection (Ogura 2008a:11). Without a clear party line, theparty‟s campaigning in this period therefore remained focused on protests and generalstrikes and the establishment of a political front, the United People‟s Front Nepal, whichparticipated in the 1994 election and was led by Baburam Bhattarai, eventually winning9 out of 205 seats. Only in 1995, a while after Nimal Sharma‟s faction had brokenaway, did the decision to prepare for a Maoist People‟s War take shape, and Prachanda‟sCPN-Unity Centre and Bhattarai‟s United People‟s Front Nepal merged to form theCPN-Maoist with Prachanda as its leader. This name change, as explained by Bhattarai,„was oriented to strengthening the party‟s revolutionary image‟ (in Ogura 2008a:11).The successes of the 1990 revolution were short-lived. Despite strong public backingfor the Jana Andolan I, Nepal was marred by continuing political and social insta-41


C H A P T E R 1bility throughout the nineties. For one thing, the construed homogeneity of identity ofPanchayat politics burst and gave way to an idea of empowerment through diversity sothat the first years of the restored democracy saw a significant rise in political movementsrepresenting a wide variety of identity struggles, from low-caste women and dalits(untouchables in the caste hierarchy) to ethnic or regional ones (Gellner et al. 1997;Lawoti 2007; Kunreuther 2009). However social unrest also followed from a period ofrising prices and the inability of the new government to restructure a patrimonial statebureaucracy, even if the panchayats had been dismantled. Poverty had been increasingin Nepal since the late 70s, mostly in the rural areas where 85 percent of the populationresides (Devkota 2007). With an increase in population from 8.1 million in 1951 to 18.4million by 1991, development efforts had not been able to offset population growth, andthe standard of living in rural areas had actually decreased (Whelpton 2005:122;Macfarlance 2001). At the same time, the problems that had plagued the first period ofdemocracy soon reappeared: quickly shifting alliances, a smothering of rival candidates,few concrete political changes, and the huge gulf separating ordinary Nepalis from thepoliticians, who predominantly belonged to the small elite of high-caste, male, hill(parbatiya) and urban Hindus (Hachhethu 2008; Adhikari 2010:226). The Nepali Congresshad won a resounding victory in 1991 but by 1994 they had already lost the elections,indicating just how far the country had come from a united platform in those fewyears.Meanwhile, the post-Panchayat governments opened up culturally and economicallyto global influences and pursued a liberalistic economic policy in line with a generalglobal tendency following the collapse of the Soviet regime. Western donors pouredinto Nepal with new projects and more money (Shah 2008a). 10 In an effort to speed upthe development of the rural areas, the National Planning Commission in its 8 th fiveyearplan (1992-1997) employed market-oriented economic policies but this failed tohave any impact on poverty levels (Devkota 2007:299-300) and only Kathmandu withits bourgeoning middle-class seemed to have grown more prosperous with the arrival ofaid money (Liechty 2003). This served to widen the already deep split between the ruralareas and urban centers that had grown throughout the 80s and paved the way for theMaoists‟ alternative program for eradicating poverty and creating national unity: notthrough politics but through war.By the mid-nineties, Nepal had therefore managed to achieve the democratic platformthat had been initiated more than forty years earlier, and had done so by graduallydisplacing the role of the king in representing the will of the Nepali people. The power10 According to Suabhagya Shah, Nepal only had 193 NGOs in 1990 but upwards of 33,000 16years later (Shah 2008a:viii).42


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O Nto change society rested first of all with the people themselves and was to be carriedthrough elections and political representation. The decades of modernization had also,however, resulted in uneven development, bypassing the rural areas whose graduates inthe newly established school system were left without employment opportunities (Nickson2003:33), and the newly-won freedom of identification beyond the glossy nationalidentity had made it clear that Nepal was a deeply divided country regionally, by caste,in terms of class and also ethnically. The combination of squashed democratic hopesand popular discontent were important precursors for the instigation of a People‟s War,and less than six months after it had changed name to CPN-Maoist and adopted a policyof armed struggle, the Maoist revolution was a reality. 11PEOPLE‟S WAR 1996 -2006On the night of 13 February 1996, seven attacks were launched simultaneously aroundthe country to mark the start of a Maoist „People‟s War‟ 12 : in the western districts ofRolpa, Rukum and Sindhuli, police posts were attacked and raided leaving 18 dead; inKathmandu a soft-drinks bottling company owned by a multi-national company was11 In 1992, the anthropologist Andrew Nickson argued that the conditions which had led to therise of the Sendero Luminoso in Peru were structurally very similar to those in Nepal and theposition of the CPN-Mashal. Both countries had similar sized populations, were characterizedby mountainous zones with agricultural societies based on gravity-fed irrigation („vertical ecology‟),had historically been self-sufficient and militaristic societies, and had been through similarprocesses of nation-building that had led to the gradual subordination of these „mountainsocieties‟ through class exploitation, the imposition of a national language, and extremely centralizedeconomic development. Lastly, the spread of a modern education system had, in bothcountries, only served to strengthen this crisis as graduates from the rural areas were left withoutemployment opportunities. Mashal‟s increasing Maoist rhetoric and its declaration after 1991that the Nepali Congress was now its primary enemy, along with the king, led Nickson to conclude:'For these reasons, it would seem that, contrary to global trends, the medium-term prospectsfor Maoism in Nepal are by no means exhausted' (Nickson 2003:33).12 I shall refer to the armed conflict by adopting the vernacular name used by the Maoists. Thisterminology reflects a claim that the campaign against state and non-state actors is done by andfor „the people‟ to redress historic wrongs and is therefore highly politicized. In conflict environments,as highlighted by a growing body of anthropological investigations (see for instanceNordstrom & Robben 1995; Bourgois 1990; Sluka 2007), language becomes charged with politicalintent and expresses the fault lines of conflict. This is also the case in Nepal, where it is customaryto use terminology such as „insurrection‟ or „guerilla war‟, sometimes even „civil war‟,to describe the conflict. From the CPN-M‟s perspective, such formulations serve to delegitimizethe movement‟s political claims, and they are furthermore inaccurate, or at least insufficient, asthe 10-year conflict involved a number of strategies that were not focused on the use of armedforce. In retaining the phrase People‟s War, I do not intend to align myself with the Maoist perspectiveof a just war but, because the subject of this thesis concerns the experience of Maoistcadres and not the political economy of the conflict, I seek to understand the movement‟s ownperspective of its actions.43


C H A P T E R 1destroyed; in Gorkha district a liquor factory was targeted as was a state-owned agrarianbank with its loan papers burned and the land registration papers returned to the peasants;and in the district of Kavre just east of Kathmandu, a notorious moneylender's loandocuments were destroyed, his house burgled, and seven of his family members shot todeath. Meanwhile, leaflets appealing to the masses were distributed by their thousandsin major urban areas of 60 out of Nepal's 75 districts and were supplemented with postersappearing overnight. Within the first few months, around 6,000 actions had takenplace in over 65 districts, mostly focused on propaganda but also on sabotage, targetedchiefly at landowners and rural elites: burning of bond papers, distribution of foodstores and the confiscating of land. In response, two dozen Maoist cadres had beenkilled by the police force and hundreds more arrested. The war had started.The CPN-M‟s People's War lasted for 10 years, from 1996 to 2006, and was aimedat overthrowing the monarchy and an unresponsive political system and replacing itwith a new democratic platform and a secular republic. The war spread from the westernand mid-western provinces of Rolpa, Rukum and Jajarkot to 68 of the countries 75provinces and claimed just over 13,000 lives, one-third of which were killed by theMaoists and two-thirds by state forces. At the height of its strength, the Maoist movementwas estimated to comprise around 20,000 well-trained combatants (Kumar2006:103), another 25,000 militias, an unknown number of cadres operating in varioussupport functions, and as many as 200,000 „sympathizers‟ (ICG 2005:8; Kumar2006:100). 13 Throughout the war, the government controlled the main cities and towns,while the Maoists dominated the rural areas. The hilly and predominantly forested hinterlandsformed their operational bases from where they targeted state institutions, policepersonnel and individual 'class enemies', and they established numerous so-called'base areas' where the representatives of the state had been defeated and the Maoistscould establish their own governance structures, placing as much as 10% of the populationunder their control. The Maoists established their first base areas in 1998 and, in2001, formed their own regular army, the People's Liberation Army (PLA). From thismoment on, the war intensified and the Maoists became regularly engaged in large battleswith the army which, when conditions were in their favor, they could win. Maoistleaders increasingly realized, however, that the war could not be won by military means(Cowan 2010) and, in 2005, entered into an alliance with six other political partiesagainst a royal coup, which eventually led to the Comprehensive Peace Accord of No-13 The Maoists themselves claimed to have 62,250 fighters in 2002 (Pahari 2010:199) and Prachandaannounced, in 2004, the aim of forming a 100,000-strong people‟s militia (ICG 2005:9).In light of the verification of combatants after the peace agreement, when the Maoists presentedlittle more than 30,000 cadres, out of which 20,000 were verified, the Maoist claim seemssomewhat inflated.44


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O Nvember 21, 2006. Over this 10-year period, the Nepali Maoist movement rose from asmall and obscure radical left-wing party with no more than 100 full-time party cadres(Ogura 2008a:13) to probably the most dominant player on the political scene. With itslarge geographical influence and its communist ideology, it challenged and uprootedtraditional socio-political structures and succeeded in redefining major tropes of thecountry's political imaginary. 14Strategy of People‟s WarEver since the establishment of the first Maoist-inspired party in 1974, the leaders ofNepal's far left had been engaged in formulating the ideological components of a Nepaleseversion of Maoism and a policy of waging an armed struggle had already beenagreed upon shortly after the 1990 Jana Andolan I, when it was clear that there wouldbe no elections for a Constituent Assembly and therefore no systemic option of restructuringthe state. CPN-M‟s overall goal was to establish a Maoist New Democracy (naulojanbad), which entailed establishing a 'dictatorship of the proletariat', and the People'sWar was seen as an essential strategy for accomplishing a shift from 'bourgeois' hegemonyto 'proletarian' hegemony (ICG 2005:3). Maoist leaders shared the ideas of development,modernization and nationalization that had been advanced during the Panchayatperiod and which were dominant across the political spectrum (see Fujikura2003:25) but they were highly critical of the prospect of achieving these goals withinthe current political system. From the beginning, the strategy of a People's War wastherefore seen as a reaction to an unresponsive state structure and the need to undertakeradical economic reforms. The problem with the parliamentary model of democracy, asformulated by Maoist ideologue Baburam Bhattarai, was that it did not redistributeproperty, only advocate free competition, and in a situation of basic inequality, freecompetition naturally favored the more powerful. CPN-M's goal was to bring about a'democratic revolution' that would address this structural inequality and redistribute14 The Nepali Maoists also came to be regarded internationally as a historic success by likemindedrevolutionary movements, and this was reflected in the leading role it had in the FrancebasedRevolutionary International Movement, RIM. After the demise of the Shining Path in Peru,with the capture of its leader Abimael Guzman in 1992, the Nepali revolution became therevolutionary event that Maoist movements worldwide followed and commented on from thesidelines, and it is still the subject of a heated international debate. The CPN-M‟s internationalhistory is a subject yet to be investigated but recent publications point to two interesting ways inwhich the Nepali Maoists‟ are part of a broader revolutionary assemblage: on the one hand,through their membership of transnational fora such as the RIM where strategies are exchanged(Cailmail 2009) and, on the other, by their strong reliance on a discursive tradition of revolution(a „hegemonic discourse‟) that is heftily policed by other actors and to which the Nepali Maoistsare constantly answerable (see Adhikari 2010).45


C H A P T E R 1wealth among the poor (Hoftun et al 1999:239), thus bringing about a new democracythat would transfer political power to the masses. The problem from the leaders' perspectivewas the class of rulers and the systemic privileges they had built to uphold theirpower - the caste system, the monarchy, the state bureaucracy; the solution was to ignitea popular sense of righteousness and turn this into a weapon through which to bring thepeople, 'the masses', to power.Mao's ideas of a Protracted People's War, which he developed in the late 1930s,provided the Maoists with a military strategy for conducting an armed uprising, its majoridea being that it is through a mobilization of the peasantry and an encircling of thecities from the rural areas that the state can be captured. 15 As a war strategy, a People'sWar is based on the realization that, when faced with a numerically superior and betterequipped enemy, an armed insurrection will quickly be defeated unless it turns its assetsinto military advantages. This has led to the well-known and popular guerilla tactic ofattacking the enemy where and when it is weak and then retreating into hiding before afull-scale counter attack can be mobilized. It is a theory of war that seeks to manipulatethe enemy rather than confront it openly, using elements of surprise and disguise to tipthe balance of power in its favor (Cowan 2010). In the Maoist model, four basic elementsare necessary for a victory in a People‟s War: the organization of a Leninist, vanguardparty; mass support and a united front; the raising of a politically-controlled army;and the creation of strategic rural bases that provide safe havens (Kumar 2006:93).In September 1995, the CPN-M leadership officially adopted a strategy of People's War,judging that the conditions in Nepal were well-suited to this type of warfare as Nepal'srugged terrain could provide a good 'mass base' for guerilla tactics (CPN-M 1995), andwould give the lightly-equipped and mobile cadre force a tactical advantage. Its strategywas consequently to roll back the presence and function of state institutions in the midhillregion, chase out the political and economic elite and replace the political vacuumby installing elected „People‟s Governments‟ (Lecomte-Tilouine 2004b:16).A key to the success of a People's War, which was also a central concern for theMaoists, lies in its ability to unite with the people against a common enemy. As a revolutionarystrategy, a People's War is essentially a liberation struggle that is centered onthe peasants. Without their support, there can be no military success because they arethe ones to be mobilized and armed to seize political power and the peasants are thereforea vital factor in winning the battle (ICG 2005:21). The outcome of the war cannot,15 Many of Mao‟s military writings have been compiled in what is known as „the little red book‟published in 1966 (see www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/works/red-book/). Other influentialtexts are: „Problems of Strategy in China‟s Revolutionary War‟ from 1936; „On GuerillaWarfare‟ from 1937; „Problems of Strategy in Guerilla War against Japan‟ from 1938; and „ProtractedWar‟ also from 1938. All are available at www.marxists.org.46


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O Nhowever, be measured solely in military terms and the importance of uniting with thepeople goes right to the heart of the Maoist conception of revolution as a process that isachieved by politicizing the population among which it fights and by transforming thecultural and political structures of society step by step alongside military victories(ibid.:22). CPN-M recognized that the People's War was a 'war of the masses' (CPN1995) and its activities were carefully weighted to win villagers‟ support by targetingunpopular institutions and individuals or skillfully appropriating local traditions in theirpractices, thereby turn their communist vision of society into concrete campaigns thatreflected local sensitivities (de Sales 2000; Shneiderman & Turin 2004; ICG 2005).In contrast to the police force and the army, the Maoists were therefore not primarilyfighting a territorial war but one that targeted key social and political structures, andwhich proceeded by conquering the population (Cowan 2006). In building their organization,they sought to integrate these concerns by combining a military organizationwith a political one. Following Mao's idea of 'three magic weapons', the movement wasdivided into three distinct units: the party, the army and a united front. However, whilethe united front was functional in terms of establishing representative revolutionarycommittees in the captured base areas and effectively consisted of a broad coalition ofsympathizing groups (ICG 2005:10), it was considered the least important of the three,and it was the party and the army that organized cadres and constituted the core commandstructure.The party was, and still is, organized like traditional communist parties with astanding committee, politburo, central committee, divisional commands, regional bureaus,sub-regional bureaus, district, area and cell committees. Political power resides ina small handful of top leaders but is subject to the ruling of the central committee ofaround 100 members, although its size has varied with the overall size of the organization.The chief leaders of the People's War, and who still dominate CPN-M today, werePushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda), Baburam Bhattarai (currently Nepal‟s Prime Minister),Ram Bahadur Thapa (Badal), Dev Gurung and Mohan Vaidya (Kiran).The Maoists are at heart a political party, and has always subordinated their militarystructures and strategies to long-term political visions (Ogura 2008a:22). The PLA wasunder the direct leadership of the party, with Prachanda as the Supreme Commander,and it was organized into western, central and eastern divisions and further subdividedinto brigades, battalions, companies, platoons, squads and then militias, who were themost poorly armed and did not carry uniforms. A two-tier leadership with both a militarycommander and a political commissar ensured tight integration between the party'spolitical line, which was the latter's area of expertise, and military effectiveness, whichwas the responsibility of the commander (Cowan 2010). The commissar was in charge47


C H A P T E R 1of defining the overall strategy while the commander handled day-to-day affairs andwas the leader-in-chief during battles where a transparent and efficient command structurewas crucial. In this way, the Maoists could build a separate military organizationbut still retain political control of its deployment so that it reflected the party's politicalpriority of winning not just any war but a revolutionary war.In preparing for a revolutionary war, the Maoist leadership engaged in a reconceptualizationof the country's social structure along class lines. A proletarian revolution isa fight between opposing classes into which existing social groups have to be fitted, anda new refined vocabulary of class relations thus had to be developed. Three overall categorieswere developed to reflect class positions in a proletarian revolution: those thatwere automatically supportive were referred to as a 'motivating force' and included thenumerically small urban proletariat, and the two large groups of middle peasants 'wholive with difficulty even after working hard on their land throughout the year', and farmworkers who were enslaved through various forms of labor relations: bonded laborers,landless and poor peasants, porters, cart pullers, rickshaw drivers and transport and'hotel' workers. While middle peasants outnumbered other classes in the mid-hills, farmworkers were the most 'reliable', the 'biggest section of the population', and the 'mainmotivating force for the Nepalese New Democratic Revolution' (CPN-M 1995). Theseprimary class forces were eclipsed by a 'vacillating ally' of classes who benefitted fromthe existing system but were not necessarily opposed to the vision of the NNDR, theNepalese New Democratic Revolution. They consisted of rich peasants who employlaborers on their land and can 'accumulate' part of their income through exploiting others;a petty-bourgeois class of petty traders, teachers and other professionals; and a nationalbourgeoisie of capitalists in traditional and modern industries. The third classconfiguration were the 'opposing forces' and consisted of imperialists, feudalists, and thepowerful comprador and bureaucratic classes that sought to divert or co-opt the vacillatingclasses from revolution.This reconceptualization of the population along class lines worked to delineatefriends from enemies in the redrawn political terrain of proletarian war. Apart from directlytargeting the state, the Maoists tapped into local dynamics of oppression. In theisolated village environment where the movement operated, long-standing social hierarchiesdefine economic and social divisions between lower-caste ethnic groups, the janajati,and the higher castes who, through land ownership, political connections and superiorcaste purity wield political, economic and ritual power. The Maoist campaign consistedof targeting the rural high-castes by forcibly distributing their land to poorer villagersand punishing them for 'crimes' they had committed previously but which theyhad not accounted for due to their class power and connections. These local and practi-48


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O Ncal examples of the new class struggle were designed to show people the relevance ofthe ideology (Shneiderman & Turin 2004) and the movement's dedication to taking theproblems of the „oppressed‟ classes seriously.In popularizing their campaign, the Maoists relied on a wide range of propagandatools to publicize their revolutionary politics. Radio, print media and word-of-mouthhelped disseminate its ideology and ongoing commentaries on current events, but one ofits principal strategies was traveling groups of performers who put on entertaining butpolitical shows in rural areas where the population did not have access to modern technologyand were often illiterate. These cultural groups became enormously popular intheir reliance on a Nepali folk tradition, with dances and songs that had wordings andscripts altered to fit the political sensibilities of the revolutionary struggle (Mottin2010). Dramatized performances of the camaraderie between cadres, or parents' agonizingbut willing sacrifice of their children to a national freedom struggle were put onshow, and new revolutionary songs calling people to arms for the glorious country werecomposed (de Sales 2003). Through these performances, Maoist cadres could communicatetheir complicated analysis of Nepali society to large sections of the 'motivating'class forces in the areas they were passing through.Mobilizing cadres and establishing base areasIt was also from these social worlds that the Maoists mobilized their cadres. In the newpost-andolan context where people's power had managed to overthrow an autocraticregime and the country was considered, across the political spectrum, to be in need ofdevelopment, Nepali society had, in fact, very limited possibilities for social mobilitythat could address the huge gulf which existed between rich and poor, as well as betweenurban and rural Nepal. The Panchayat education system had built its vision ofmodernization and national development on rural Nepal as being backward in both theseaspects (Pfaff-Czarnecka 1997), thereby turning it into a negative identity. Yet nationwidestructures of discrimination made it very difficult for the rural poor to escape theirhistorical position as disadvantaged (Joshi & Mason 2008). The two major options ofmigration work and education were very limited with the first being strenuous and offeringlittle improvement and the second being grossly unequal, with very few passingthe prestigious School Leaving Certificate that gave access to jobs and further educationin the cities (Mikesell 2006). The Maoists tapped into these grievances and offered apath out of the village that was a noble alternative to migration (Lecomte-Tilouine2009b:84), and which enabled young people to participate in a new form of modernity(Pettigrew 2008:321). Joining was therefore not just a reaction to personal despair butoffered a chance to change a system that had made life difficult for them or for their49


C H A P T E R 1parents, and it therefore expressed a dedication to bringing about a different collectivefuture (Fujikura 2003:24). Women, in particular, recount that they became members becausethe Maoist organization was responsive to women‟s issues and encouraged theirparticipation (Sharma & Prasain 2004: Gautam et. al 2003).Significantly, membership offered a positive identity against the dominant perceptionof rural life as backward and anti-modern. Maoist mobilization built on a project ofnational development that engendered new forms of collective imagination (Fujikura2003). Cadres became liberators of a more just and prosperous Nepal, they were thenew youth who could overthrow the old order (Zharkevich 2009b), and they becamesoldiers in a profoundly just war, whose lives were sacrificed for the sake of the largergood and who would be added to the honorific list of national martyrs (Lecomte-Tilouine 2006). Through a cultural creation of symbols that defined the unity of the revolutionariesand lines of divisiveness, members were included in an „imagined temporarycommunity‟ (Mottin 2010:61). While cadres in the People's War also recountedpersonal histories of suffering, the hardships of soldiers' lives, or the trauma of forcedconscription (see, in particular, Jaquet 2009), they perceived themselves as heroes in anational freedom struggle. The status of the PLA soldier, in particular, was seen as honorableand a position that required years of faithful service (Eck 2010:42) which noteveryone could attain (Zharkevich 2009b:70-71).As the Maoists managed to evict local state representatives, the most important ofwhich was the police force, it established zones where cadres were in de facto controland could operate in the open. From around mid-1997 on, it started replacing the oldpower structure with People‟s Governments (Jana Sarkar) at the village level and graduallydeveloped a national structure of United Revolutionary People‟s Governmentsfrom the central level down to the villages that came to function as a parallel government(Ogura 2008b). These 'base areas' were placed under the control of party officialswho sought to implement new ideas of a fair and equitable social order: work was collectivizedby organizing it into communes; political hierarchies were reshuffled by appointingformerly disregarded ethnic or caste-groups to lead important committees;young people were put in charge of local development initiatives that sidelined the oldergeneration; rituals and cultural codes of the Hindu order were banned, such as discriminationbased on caste impurities and festive activities celebrating the Hindu gods; People'sCourts were established where local justice was meted out; the brewing of localspirits was made illegal; and new ethics of community work through participation andsharing were promoted (see Ogura 2008b; Lecomte-Tilouine 2010b; De Sales 2009;Shneiderman & Turin 2004). Through the People‟s Governments and the establishmentof 'model' villages and 'model' schools, the Maoists strived to implement its communist50


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O Nvision of a society built on equality, national determination and a willingness to put thewelfare of the collective before oneself. In this sense, these villages evidenced themovement‟s dedication to an altered social order that also came to inform the way theparty sought to socialize its cadres through communal organization in the post-conflictsetting.Maoist efforts at impressing a naya satta, new power, on local communities wasnot uncritically received, however, and met with varied resistance. Detailed documentationfrom Western Nepal, where Jana Sarkars were most widespread, has shown howpeople were appointed to the new committees against their will, threatened into votingin favor of Maoist candidates, and recruited en masse to become whole-timers (Ogura2008b). In 2005, discontent exploded when villagers of Dullu in western Nepal, mainlywomen, abducted and attacked Maoist cadres and ignited a popular campaign againstMaoist violence (Shah 2008b). From other parts of Nepal, observers have highlightedhow the People‟s War proceeded by terrorizing local worlds, and was accompanied byresentment and fear (Lecomte-Tilouine 2009a; De Sales 2009: Pettigrew 2008). Someof this was simply related to the fact that a Maoist presence exposed villages to armyand police repression although the revolutionaries also employed excessive violenceagainst individual class enemies and informers and earned a reputation for being extrahuman(Shneiderman & Turin 2004).Chief among the concerns that followed the Maoists was probably the parents' fearthat their children would be recruited to join the People's War, and many sent their childrenaway to prevent this from happening (Pettigrew 2004; Lecomte-Tioluine 2010b).The movement had two major recruitment campaigns: 'one house one guerilla' and'shoes', which involved placing a pair of shoes outside the door of a house as a sign thatone member of the household was expected to join (ICG 2005:10). However they alsospecifically used schools to recruit children in their early teens (Lawoti & Pahari2010:310) and this particularly exposed the younger generation to Maoist propaganda(Jaquet 2009). Families who refused to provide a child for the revolution would insteadbe asked for a donation (Shrestha-Schipper 2009:107). Forced donations, chanda, ortaxes were imposed upon tourists, businesses, civil servants, teachers and others whowere considered capable of paying (Lecomte-Tilouine 2010b:125). Relations betweenMaoist cadres and villagers were therefore not straightforward and led one researcher todescribe it as a „fluid‟ situation because support for the Maoists could vacillate from one51


C H A P T E R 1village to another, and because its cadres were confronted with daily resistance on a varietyof fronts (De Sales 2009). 16From the popular to the controversial, the Maoist movement's activities were an effortat grounding its political vision for Nepal and thus making it relevant at a local level.It was in this environment that the People's War grew and from which it drew itsforces, and it was from this perspective of rural life with its structures and inequalitiesthat it constituted a force that pointed its guns at the state and at the latter's alliance witha small class elite. In order to follow the Maoist strategy of encircling the city from therural areas, it had to insert itself forcefully into this world by winning its widespreadsupport, showing it how it conceptualized a better Nepal without class inequalities, andby mobilizing its occupants to fight their local and national oppressors. The Maoistmovement, in this 10-year period, therefore became a decidedly rural movement thatliterally had to fight its way through the rural areas with their specific class and ethnicconfigurations, use the jungle as its operational base, and win these local battles withone arm while they fought the national state forces with the other.History of the conflict 17During the first years of the conflict, the Maoists went through several phases to buildan organization and strengthen the impact in the rural areas. At the outset of the People‟sWar, the movement had as few as 100 full-time cadres and organized its forcesinto local fighting groups. The First Plan focused on publicity, sabotage, guerilla actions,and the assassination of class enemies. In response to swift police retaliation,however, The Second Plan, initiated after only six months, sought to transform thesmall fighting units, the Radak Dals, into proper squadrons and, in the following twoyears, the party expanded its organization under the slogan „Let‟s develop guerilla warfarein a planned way‟. In this period, and entering into their Third Plan, the Maoistsformed platoon-level forces and stepped up raids on police posts in order to obtainweapons and ammunition, and to create local power vacuums. Following the counterinsurgencyoperation Kilo Sierra II in May 1998, in which many cadres were killed, theMaoists entered into their Fourth Plan, which called for the establishment of „base areas‟and a re-orienting of the military strategy towards a more professional task force thatwas capable of carrying out larger-scale raids on police posts. In September 2000, themovement conducted its first successful attack on a government headquarter in Rolpa16 Although the forms such resistance took were probably specific to the history of the People‟sWar, villagers‟ resistance to local and national power has been an accompanying feature of Nepal‟shistory (Fisher 2008).17 This section builds extensively on Ogura 2008a; Upreti 2008, and Hachhethu 2009.52


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O NDistrict, killing 15 police officers and wounding more than 50, as well as looting theNepal Bank for the equivalent of 544,000 Euros (Ogura 2008a:14). Five months later,the movement held its Second National Conference in India – the first since the war hadstarted – where it decided to form the PLA as a regular armed force and expand its militaryactions further.During this initial period when the Maoist movement was growing and in the processof implementing its radical vision of society and a just war in the countryside, itwas hardly noticed in the capital. Throughout the first years of its rural campaigns, itwas seen as being of little relevance to politics and life in Kathmandu, where a spate ofunstable governments were elected that recycled previous Prime Ministers (Gellner2008:14). Nine days before initiating the People's War, Baburam Bhattarai, on behalf ofthe party, had submitted a 40-point memorandum to the Nepali Congress PM, Sher BahadurDeuba, demanding among other things that the government take action againstIndia‟s expanding influence in domestic politics, against the continued social and politicalexclusion of women, lower-castes and janajatis, and for secure livelihoods (seeThapa 2003:291pp). Although it was of course completely unrealistic that these demandscould be met in the two-week window the government was given, its decisionnot to respond at all clearly illustrated the little regard the political establishment heldfor CPN-M's political campaign. For many years, the People‟s War was consequentlyconsidered a law-and-order problem, and it was only in 2001 – when Sher BahadurDeuba once again became president – that the government offered to negotiate.2001 marked the first strategic shift for CPN-M. Partly in response to the urbanelite‟s disregard for rural politics, the leadership came to the realization that a strictlyrural war did not seriously challenge state power due to the relative independence of theurban centers. None of the proletarian revolutions of the past could therefore be appliedin Nepal‟s political context, and a new type of revolution was needed that mixed thecountry‟s unique situation with the global realities of the 21 st century. Prachanda tableda document under the title: „The great leap forward: an inevitable need of history‟ thatwas adopted as the party‟s new strategy. The idea, which has come to be known as „PrachandaPath,‟ seeks to mix the Protracted People‟s War of Mao with Lenin‟s generaluprising and therefore to combine a rural-based insurrection with an urban one (Roy2008:63-64). Strengthening its military capacity through the expansion of the PLA wasa key element of this new strategy, as it allowed the Maoists to threaten the state and itsregional structures, and by April two large assaults had already been led against policecamps in Western Nepal leaving more than 60 police officers dead.Six months after the adoption of Prachanda Path, the Narayanhiti Palace massacreoccurred, a fateful event that fundamentally changed Nepal‟s political landscape. Ten53


C H A P T E R 1members of the royal family were killed, including King Birendra. According to a highlevelreport issued only one week later, Crown-Prince Dipendra had gunned down hisfamily over a quarrel with his mother. The king‟s younger brother, Gyanendra, becameNepal‟s new king, as he and his closest family were among the few to survive unscathed,and it was popularly believed that Gyanendra was responsible for the massacre(Thapa 2005). The palace murders changed the People‟s War. Before 2001, the conflicthad been between the government and the Maoists. Because the king controlled the army,this meant that the Maoists had been fighting only against the police, and althoughthe government had asked King Birendra to mobilize the army against the guerillas, hehad refused to do so, opting instead for a neutral position. CPN-M leaders believed thatGyanendra‟s take-over was part of a conspiracy planned against them and observed thatthe Royal Nepal Army was being fortified and its capacity increased (see Ogura2008a:15-16). In July the same year, Maoist leaders declared that they had militarilydefeated the police forces, and it became increasingly clear that the king and the armywere to become their new primary enemy: in November 2001, a state of emergency wasdeclared whereby the army was, for the first time, mobilized against the Maoist movement;in October 2002, Gyanendra assumed executive power over the government; andon February 1, 2005, the king staged a royal coup in which he banned all news reportsand arrested senior political leaders, journalists and human rights activists.The period from 2001 on therefore saw an intensification of the conflict. Maoistslaunched numerous large-scale attacks and adopted a strategy of positional warfareagainst the army forces with large troops of PLA soldiers. From May 2003, it enteredinto the third stage of Protracted People‟s War, called the strategic offensive, and startedto train full-time party workers to form militias. In turn, the army launched counterinsurgencyattacks throughout the country from November 2001 to May 2006, resultingin many civilian deaths and mass arrests. Before 2002, less than 2,000 people had diedin the conflict but, in 2002 alone, the state forces were responsible for more than 3,000deaths and the Maoists almost half as much (Lawoti & Pahari 2010:309), attesting to thedetermination and price of the army's involvement.The king‟s interference changed the political equation between the parties and theMaoists. Since 2002, when the state of emergency was declared, CPN-M leaders hadmaintained contact with leaders from the opposition and, after the royal take-over, aSeven Party Alliance was formed between the political parties to defeat the monarchy.In November 2005, CPN-M entered into a „12 point understanding‟ with the Seven PartyAlliance that included their old commitment to holding elections for a ConstituentAssembly and the return of a democratic political environment (Upreti 2008:153-154).The movement‟s coalition with the political parties was made possible by a change of54


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O Nstrategy in the overall aim of the People‟s War during a Central Committee meeting inJune 2003 at which Prachanda had presented a proposal entitled „The Development ofDemocracy in the 21 st Century‟. 18 The proposal was unanimously endorsed and calledfor a „Completion of Bourgeois Democratic Transition‟ instead of a Maoist New Democracy,and one of its principal ideas was to accept a competitive multi-party politicalsystem.The royal coup therefore paved the way for CPN-M‟s alliance with the mainstreamparties and the gradual abandonment of their military campaign in favor of cooperationwith the other political parties. While the Maoists in the preceding years had strengthenedtheir army and expanded parallel governance structures and divided the countryinto nine Autonomous Regions, it was also becoming increasingly clear that they couldnot defeat the national army, which was backed by international anti-communist andanti-terrorist support (Cowan 2010:98; Hachhethu 2009:52). These developments led tothe Maoist change of strategy towards a democratic transition and they legitimized thisideological shift by referring to the idea of Prachanda Path, which symbolized the fusionof quite different paths of political maneuvering. In the new context, Prachanda Pathwas thus expanded and redefined as „a blending of armed revolution, mass movement,peace negotiation and diplomacy‟ (ibid.:61). These ideological redefinitions were importantfor the Maoists because it allowed them to retain an image of being a revolutionarymovement despite significant changes to the party line. The decision to cooperatewith the political parties was not to be seen as a break with a strategy of guerillawarfare but rather as a continuation of a revolutionary struggle, and the People‟s Warcould thus be portrayed as a „glorious event‟ (ibid.:63) that had contributed to bringingabout a joint political movement against the monarchy and in favor of a democratic republic(see also Adhikari 2010:239). 1918 Baburam Bhattarai‟s explanation for this shift hinged on what he called the „mistakes of theone-party system‟, which the new strategy sought to address by mixing socialism with politicalcompetition (Ogura 2008b:26). Maoist leaders said they realized that a party in power was differentto a party conducting a revolution and that a suitable mechanism should be found to ensureconstant control of „monopolistic‟ and „bureaucratic‟ tendencies (Hachhethu 2009:56).19 Later party documents have shown how Maoist leaders viewed the peace process negotiationsas „another front to fight against the enemy‟ (in Adhikari 2010:238). This was in line with „agenuine communist policy…[which]…tactically concentrates the struggle against the one whichhas seized state-power‟ (ibid.:237) and has been analyzed by Zizek in his discussion of Mao‟sconcept of the „principal contradiction‟ (Zizek 2008:181ff). Although the CPN-M has been accusedof „revisionism‟ (Hachhethu 2009) and has since faced serious critique from revolutionarymovements worldwide, it has sought to legitimize its decision to join the political platform byreferring, on the one hand, to Prachanda Path as a necessary cultural adaptation of socialismand, on the other, to the tactic of concentrating on the principal enemy/contradiction.55


C H A P T E R 1Summing up, the People‟s War was a reaction to a failed development and democratizationprocess that involved a radical reconfiguration of the social and political landscape.Despite having broken with the political establishment at the outset, the end ofthe People‟s War saw a similar cooperation between the political parties as on earlieroccasions when political leaders had worked together in the face of autocratic rule andin the interest of bringing back a democratic platform. But the conflict had also broughta completely new type of political organization to power that had fought and lived in thejungle for a decade with a large force of underground full-time cadres, and combined alarge and efficient military machinery with a tightly integrated command structure thatcould quickly implement important strategic decisions. In addition, the Maoists hadmobilized an entirely new generation of rural cadres to politics whose options for socialmobility were limited by an elitist political culture, and the movement had succeeded inspreading a new ideology with ideas of social justice and national service that had becomeengrained in the revolutionary cadres, whose lives could be sacrificed for thefreedom of the oppressed classes, and to which the coming generation owed everything.It was on the back of these developments that the 2006 People's Movement emergedand post-conflict Nepal unfolded.POST-WAR NEPALIn April 2006, over a span of 19 days, major protests and demonstrations unfolded inthe Kathmandu Valley demanding an end to King Gyanendra‟s emergency rule and areinstallation of the parliament, reaching a climax on April 21 when Nepal‟s largesteverdemonstration occurred with several hundred thousand participants (Ogura2008a:29). For several weeks, the Seven Party Alliance had prepared for a general strikethat marked the beginning of the Jana Andolan II (People‟s Movement), and the Maoistshad been smuggling cadres in from the rural areas; the PLA‟s Third Division wasalso in Kathmandu to take an active part in the collective revolt. 20 Initially, the governmentresponded violently by mobilizing the army and the police against the demonstra-20 Deputy Commander of the PLA Ananta claimed that more than 90,000 people from KavreDistrict alone had been sent to Kathmandu (in Ogura 2008a:29). Even if this figure were to becorrect, it does not indicate how many actually participated and furthermore does not establishhow many were party cadres. Many of the Maoist members I worked with, however, talked oftheir participation in the 2006 Jana Andolan and some recounted in more detail how they hadbeen in civilian clothing to camouflage themselves but had been at the front of the demonstrationsand used a strategy of „standing on the back while hitting on the head‟. The latter was aslogan that was adopted by the PLA after the unilateral ceasefire declaration in August 2005 intheir preparations for entering the urban areas (in Ogura 2008a:21).56


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O Ntors and imposing a day-time curfew but, with little international support, King Gyanendrawithdrew his state of emergency on April 24 and G.P. Koirala from the NepaliCongress became prime minister (for the fourth time) of an Interim Government headedby the Seven Party Alliance. On April 30, the House of Representatives decided to holdConstituent Assembly elections and, on May 18, amendments to the constitution abolishedthe king‟s emergency powers, and the Royal Nepal Army became the Nepal Army.The CPN-M was still outside the political mainstream but announced a three-monthceasefire and entered into negotiations with the government which, after several obstacles,disagreements and concessions, led to the historic Comprehensive Peace Agreementon November 21, 2006.The Comprehensive Peace Agreement was essentially a roadmap for a transitionperiod with two principal elements. First was the containment of the armed conflict.There were still two armies in the country, the Nepal Army and the People's LiberationArmy (PLA), and it was stipulated that both be contained in their barracks and cantonments,respectively, and that the PLA‟s weapons should be handed over and stored underUN surveillance along with an equal number of weapons from the Nepal Army. TheUnited Nations' Mission to Nepal (UNMIN) was established to monitor the restraintsput on the two armies and embarked on a verification process of the PLA soldiers thatmade 19,000 out of the 32,250 initially registered in the cantonments eligible for a processof integration or rehabilitation that should be decided upon later, and in the meantimea monthly allowance of 3,000 Rupees (€33) was paid to each combatant. 21 Secondwas the writing of a new constitution to reflect the important political changes that hadoccurred since the 1990 constitution. The People's War had not only highlighted thesystematic discrimination against ethnic minorities and the lower castes but also thegreat regional divides that threatened to destabilize the country as a whole, and a newconstitution needed to seek a better integration of the country's regions and their minorities.It was therefore agreed that Constituent Assembly elections should be held to forma new and inclusive post-war government that could decide on the best model for restructuringthe state. Until then, an Interim Government consisting of the Seven PartyAlliance parties and the Maoists should divide power between them, and an InterimConstitution was drafted in December 2006 that provided a framework for the transition21 The significant discrepancy between the 3,428 weapons presented by the CPN-M and thenumbers of PLA combatants (30,852) invoked suspicion that not all weapons had been accountedfor. Recent research suggests that the PLA was, however, seriously under-armed (Cowan2010) and the leakage of video footage in May 2008 in which Prachanda addresses combatantsin the Third Division cantonment in Chitwan, saying that they had deliberately inflated thenumber of soldiers presented for verification when, in reality, they only had 8,000 fighters, suggeststhat the difference between weapons and personnel may not have been so glaring after all(see ICG 2011 footnote 14-19 for an elaboration).57


C H A P T E R 1period. These two aspects of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and in particular itsfailure to fully negotiate the difficult issues of the two armies (Martin 2010), set thestage for the political debates in the coming years and came to delineate the major linesof conflict that often threatened to split the consensus apart.Continuing the revolutionAs you all know, we are in the era of imperialism [and] the obverse side ofimperialism is proletarian revolution. However, the bitter experiences of allthe proletarian revolutions of the 20th century ending in counter-revolutionand the failure to make any successful revolution after the demise of Com.Mao in 1976, have raised serious questions on the subjective side of proletarianrevolution at the moment […] in our opinion, revolution cannot berepeated but can only be developed or improved upon [...] In the context itis of particular importance for the proletarian revolutionaries of the 21stcentury to pay adequate attention to the question of defense, application anddevelopment of the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist science of proletarian revolution.Even though rightist revisionist distortion of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is the main danger in general, the vigilance against dogmatism andpragmatism within the revolutionary movement is no less significant. It isonly by developing the invincible ideology of M-L-M through concrete practicein the concrete conditions that we may be able to fulfill the historicalresponsibility of making revolution and preventing counter-revolution.(Comrade Prachanda, Chairman CPN(M), The Worker #11, July 2007).Central to CPN-M‟s development has been a strong belief that they are spearheading aproletarian revolution. These were ideas that had crystallized during debates and organizationalrealignments within the entire international communist movement during theunderground years of the Panchayat era, and which started to take the form of a MaoistPeople‟s War in the aftermath of Jana Andolan I. From 1996 to 2001, CPN-M leaderslargely followed Maoist revolutionary ideas of armed struggle but, since the formulationof Prachanda Path as a fusion between different strategies, the Nepali Maoists have incorporatednew elements into their goal of establishing a socialist state, most significantlythe idea of first completing the Bourgeois Democratic Revolution.Crucial here has been the conviction that the proletarian revolution has not beenabandoned but is merely entering a new phase. One Maoist leader explained it to me bydrawing a map of the revolutionary progress from 1996 onwards. During the People‟sWar, the revolution was continually progressing in accordance with the evolutionaryconceptualization of history underlying the Marxian idea of historic forces. After 2006,however, the revolution suddenly lost speed and itself entered a transitory phase. Onlyafter capturing the state could the revolution once again gain speed and continue on itspredestined route. While I heard many different interpretations of revolutionary pro-58


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O Ngression after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, all agreed that the revolutionarytrajectory had suffered a blow and become more complicated. A new discourse of revolutiontherefore surfaced that retained the idea of an evolutionary progression towardsestablishing a socialist state while highlighting how it had changed character.In joining the peace process, the Maoist leadership was seeking to implement someof their long-time goals and judged that the time was ripe to carry these programs forwardthrough a political process. Chief among these was to turn Nepal into a republicand prevent the king from overruling the government, and this included severing thehistorical link between the Nepal Army and the Narayanhiti Palace. Though the kinghad already been formally stripped of his powers, the army was still considered byCPN-M to be loyal to the king and therefore needed to be restructured. In the summer of2006, the government had appointed Rookmangud Katawal as Commander-in-Chief ofthe Nepal Army and this was severely criticized by Prachanda since Katawal had beenresponsible for suppressing the Jana Andolan II in April and had practically grown upin the palace (Ogura 2008a:33). Beside these „pro-monarchy forces‟, which Maoistleaders were wary of, they envisaged a whole-scale restructuring of the state that includeda new judiciary, a changed legislature, a presidential system, and a federalizationof Nepal‟s regions along ethnic lines, all to be laid down in a new constitution (Bhattarai2004; CPN-M 2008). Their concern was that the current parliamentary system wasprone to instability and therefore not strong enough to carry out radical reforms, andthey also wanted to ensure that ethnic minorities and other „oppressed‟ groups weregranted the right to self-determination (Adhikari 2010:240ff). Maoist leaders stressedthe need not just for a parliamentary democracy but for a people‟s democracy thatshould be more answerable to its constituencies than the current model of governance,and the party‟s objective was to gain a majority in the elections and go on to a lead anew government for enough time to be able to carry these reforms through (ibid.:243).The post-war period and CPN-M‟s decision to participate in a political process hasresulted in a wide variety of changes in the party and its operations ranging from ideologyto organizational restructuring to shifting political priorities and activities. 22 Someof these changes have been a result of the movement‟s adaptation to a political environmentthat has been highly skeptical of their sincerity in joining a multi-party platformand critical of many of their demands, while others have followed from internaltransformations as the movement has sought to shift from an underground organizationwaging a war into a party fighting for votes. YCL has grown out of these changing dynamicsand has been crucial for the movement‟s transformation into an urban-based par-22 See in particular Ogura 2008a; Adhikari 2010; Lawoti 2010b, Snellinger 2010a and ICG reports fordetails on these changes.59


C H A P T E R 1ty. In what follows, I shall limit my discussion to tracing some of the principal elementsof YCL's emergence in a post-war context, and as this is still a theme that has not beeninvestigated, much of what I shall be recounting in this section is based on my ownfieldwork data. 23 The aim here is not to provide a comprehensive exploration of theYCL organization and its activities but to situate it within the Maoist movement as awhole, and thereby provide a context for understanding the establishment of the YCLcamps and its mobilization of an urban proletariat to a changed revolutionary struggle.Emergence and role of the YCLWhen the YCL was founded it was based on four principles: to defend andpropagate the party line, to politicise the masses on the basis of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM), to fight for proletarian state power, and lastly toserve the people. This organisation is a political, militant mass organisation.Previously we had an understanding with other political parties whichis reflected in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The YCL iscommitted to implement[ing] this understanding and to make the other sideimplement this too. This is a politically contentious issue. We are trying todevelop a state based on MLM and we want to demolish the current state.Those people with old ideas who want to maintain the status-quo will obviouslyoppose our organisation. Because we are fighting for the interests ofthe majority of the people, the majority of the people support us. A minorityof the reactionaries who exploit this country oppose us.(Comrade Sonam,In-Charge of the YCL, 13 Sept 2009, wrpmbritain.org)YCL can helpfully be thought of as a phenomenon specific to the Maoist transition fromwar to politics in that it bridges important ideological and organizational aspects fromthe People's War with requirements and challenges germane to parliamentary democracyin Nepal: political negotiation, mobilization through an electoral system, urban presenceand legal activities. The YCL has been criticized almost daily in the nationalnewspapers for attacking and occasionally killing cadres from rival youth parties, forexhorting donations to finance their organizations and, in general, for employing vio-23 The YCL does not publicize its organizational structure and publicly reveals very few detailsabout itself. While most of what I report here is available publicly through official reports, newsstories, YCL's publications and interviews by journalists from international communist movements,I use my own observations to draw out specific features of the YCL. Given the periodand geographic limitations of my field site, this description is therefore biased towards the YCLin Kathmandu and the area in which I worked, and it is likely that some of the features I describeare germane to YCL anno 2009. Due to the unavailability of reliable research on theYCL, I have been unable to confirm the generality of some of my observations, and I ask myreaders to bear these limitations in mind. This is particularly relevant for a movement that isconstantly undergoing changes, and my intention here is not to provide accurate information onhow the YCL in general works but to provide a historically and locally specific context for understandingthe relationship between CPN-M members in my field.60


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O Nlence against its opponents. This kind of politics is expressive of the YCL's precariousposition in the post-conflict sphere, where it has had to build on the movement's successesin the People's War with its reliance on PLA's guerilla strategy, while operatingin a competitive environment and becoming a 'mass‟ organization that mobilizes inexperiencedand untrained people to support its cause.One of the first challenges the Maoists were presented with when agreeing to competein a national election was their weak base in the cities, and it was decided to mobilizeas many people as possible to enlarge the party's urban areas (Hachhethu 2009:67).By December 2006, CPN-M leaders already claimed to have more than 1,500 full-timeactivists in Kathmandu compared to 70 prior to the Jana Andolan II (ICG 2006). TheYCL was a central element of this changed strategy and came into existence almost beforethe ink of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement had dried. In late November, theMaoist leadership decided to reactivate the YCL, which was first formed in 1990s as apreparation for the People‟s War and had been converted to guerilla squads with the beginningof the armed revolution in 1996 (ICG 2007:23). 24 Since the PLA had been neutralizedby the peace agreement, the Maoists needed an organizational front that reflectedthe changing political circumstances but built on the unique role of the PLA as a militaryextension of the mother party.As outlined above, the PLA was organizationally separate from the party structureand yet tightly integrated into it. Being a broad-based political movement, the Maoistshave historically been allied with different fraternal organizations that have worked aspolitical fronts during their years underground, and which represent important societalsectors for the party‟s political work. Referred to as „sister organizations‟, the most influentialhas been the All Nepal National Free Students Union (Revolutionary), AN-NISU-R, which mobilizes students under the party banner, while other fraternal organizationsmobilize teachers, women, peasants, workers and ethnic groups. The YCL isunique in that it is not regarded as a „sister organization‟ but – much like the PLA usedto be – as a „secondary organization‟ (Snellinger 2010a:80) which takes its orders directlyfrom the party leadership. This is reflected in its organizational set-up, which hasthe same hierarchical structure as the mother party. The YCL is organized into regionallevels under a Central Committee with 45 members. These levels are hierarchically24 According to the YCL‟s Chairman, Ganeshman Pun, the YCL dates back to the first communistyouth organization in Nepal that was set up in 1951. In the early 1980s, this youth organizationwas led by Prachanda before he became a Central Committee member and, during thePeople‟s War, the YCL was mobilized to carry out „mass work‟ and „public service‟. Pun describedit as „the kindergarten of the party‟ since many people went on to join militias and,eventually, the PLA (Interview by WPRM-Britain. Published 20 Sep. 2009 on wprmbritain.org).61


C H A P T E R 1structured into committees from State all the way down to Ward but, in Kathmandu, themost active committees during my fieldwork were the District, Area and Ilaka.As is probably common to the Maoist movement as a whole (see ICG 2005:8),leaders from one YCL committee level are ex officio members of the committee abovethem, and thereby serve to vertically integrate the different regional levels. Furthermore,there is horizontal integration, at least between party committees and YCL committeesat the same regional level, through common meetings in which both YCL committeemembers and party committee members participate. YCL‟s integration into the partystructure is evidenced by the way its leadership is divided between a commander(Ganeshman Pun alias Rashmi) and a commissar (Kul Prasad KC alias Sonam) similarto the distinction utilized in the PLA during the People‟s War to create an efficient militarycommand-structure that is at the same time politically responsive. Ganeshman Punis YCL‟s day-to-day Chairman and a member of the party‟s Central Committee, whilethe Politburo member Comrade Sonam is the overall In-Charge of the YCL and ensuresthat the organization is responsive to the party‟s political priorities. 25 In contrast withthe other Maoist fronts, the YCL is therefore cross-sectoral in that it does not workwithin a particular societal sector – schools, factories, hotels, colleges, etc. – but is rathera support movement for the party as a whole. Furthermore, building on the successesof the PLA, the YCL leadership considers it to be a fusion of a military and a politicalorganization, and the YCL has been described as an „army without uniform‟ by oneof its leaders (Tamang 2009). These historic and organizational links between the twomilitarized units of the CPN-M organizations have been further underlined by the largescaletransfer of PLA cadres from the cantonments to the YCL, as prominent leadersand cadres in the PLA were given the opportunity to shift to the YCL during its inceptionphase. 2625 YCL‟s In-Charge explains the link between the PLA and the YCL in the following terms:„Before the initiation of the People‟s War, there was already a YCL, which was transformedinto the PLA during the war. During the People‟s War, youth were always organized in thePLA. At local levels there were also local defense teams. After the CPA [Comprehensive PeaceAgreement], the main force of the PLA was put in cantonments, but the secondary force, thevillage and local defense teams, became the YCL. The YCL is now carrying out activities toadvance the party line and help the coming insurrection take place. During the People‟s War,the PLA was working as the main force of the mobile war. Now the YCL is working to defendthe achievements of the People‟s War period and preparing for the coming struggles‟ (Interviewfrom September 2009, posted on wprmbritain.org).26 Some sources suggest that up to 7,000 soldiers were shifted to the new organization (ICG2011:5) but Comrade Sonam claimed in mid-2009 that there were some 6,000 full-time memberswith an additional 100,000 irregular and part-time activists. Other estimates cite 50,000active cadres, as many as 450,000 ordinary members but also „only‟ 6,000-7,000 whole-timers(Skar 2008a). This figure is probably inspired by Ganeshman Pun‟s assertion in June 2008 thatthe organization had up to one million members, although only a small percentage of these were62


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O NThe links between the PLA and the YCL have been more than organizational andare reflected in how both organizations in their respective periods have been seen as themost important front for the party through which to carry out the party line. During thePeople's War, this was the army, and during the transition period, this is the 'fusion' betweena militarized and a political organization, meaning among other things that itshould not remain shielded 'in barracks' but should be 'staying among the people' (Tamang2009). The YCL was routinely described by its leaders in my field as 'a new typeof organization for a new situation', reflecting the Maoist requirement for revolutionarymovements to constantly adapt to changing circumstances. In effect, the YCL took overthe role PLA had had as the main instrument for pursuing the party‟s political objectives.From the beginning, the YCL was thus charged with overseeing the party‟s transformationfrom People‟s War to People‟s Democracy and to provide ground-level logisticalsupport in arranging party events and various public campaigns. After the ComprehensivePeace Agreement, the Maoist leadership divided its work between three strategicareas: parliament, government and the street, and the YCL was to be the party‟s newbroad and popular mass organization that could exert its political force at street level,close to the party‟s constituencies. Its primary role became to secure an electoral victorythat would allow the party to follow through on its sociopolitical visions, and the YCLwas organized to reflect the importance of electoral constituencies. 27Throughout 2007 and early 2008, the YCL focused its work on securing electoralsuccess for the party in the constituent areas where its cadres operated. Electoral processesin Nepal have historically been superseded by vote rigging and booth capturingand, besides regular political campaigning, the YCL was to ensure that rival politicalgroups did not use any of these illegitimate methods in the election. The ConstituentAssembly election was first scheduled for mid-June 2007 but was postponed twice, andwas finally held in April 2008, two years after Jana Andolan II. The Maoists came out aclear winner with 30% of the popular vote and secured 220 out of 601 seats in the InterimParliament. In Kathmandu, CPN-M candidates surprised everyone by winning in 7full-time members (Kathmandu Post, June 16, 2008). Correct figures are therefore hard to comeby but the appearance of PLA soldiers in the YCL has been widely noted and is hardly surprisinggiven the sudden termination of PLA activities and the organizational similarities betweenthe two organizations. Ganeshman Pun had himself been a political commissar in the PLA andmany of the YCL leaders I met during my fieldwork had a history as soldiers for the PLA, includingthe leader of the Nayabasti camp.27 Kathmandu Valley is organized into three districts, representing the royal centers of the oldMalla Kingdoms: Bhaktapur, Patan and Kathmandu. Of the country‟s 205 election constituencies,15 are in the Kathmandu Valley, 1 in Bhaktapur, 2 in Patan and 12 in Kathmandu. TheYCL was built up in accordance with these administrative lines, following CPN-M‟s adaptationof a new organizational structure to reflect this state administration system after a a CentralCommittee meeting in Bhaktapur in December 2006 (Ogura 2008a:41).63


C H A P T E R 1out of 15 constituencies, including the area in which I carried out fieldwork. The positiveresults were credited to the YCL, which was seen as the overall reason for the Maoist'selection victory (Skar 2008a) and, in celebrating it, Prachanda invited GaneshmanPun to address the crowds just as he had overseen the YCL's official inauguration inFebruary 2007, 15 months earlier. During my fieldwork, the YCL's contribution to theMaoist victory was routinely referred to by both YCL and party leaders in order to underlinetheir close cooperation and the value placed on the YCL's activist campaigns.Within the community of Maoist sister organizations YCL therefore had a special status,which influenced its position as a revolutionary front-runner, and was an identitythat rubbed off on its cadres.Under the patronage of the CPN-M, the YCL quickly became a significant player inthe political landscape in terms of sheer numbers and in the kind of activism they pioneered.Following the set-up of the YCL after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, asmany as 7,000 PLA cadres were transferred to the new organization and, in September2009, the party In-Charge Comrade Sonam claimed that it had 6,000 full-timer membersand up to 100,000 irregular and part-time activists (see footnote 25 above). The Maoistshave traditionally divided their members into three broad categories: whole-timers thatare the party‟s full-time and core cadres; part-timers that are more loosely affiliated, andsympathizers who are not part of the organizational structure but can be called upon forspecific campaigns. Because whole-timers dedicate themselves entirely to their workand position as cadres, they enjoy a high status within the Maoist community and areregarded as the core cadre-base, those most loyal to the party and the most committedrevolutionaries. After the neutralization of the PLA, the YCL became the largest recruiterof whole-timers, and with advent of the peace process where it suddenly becamepossible to be a Maoist member or sympathizer without fearing reprisals from the securityforces, YCL‟s mobilization of people to full-time positions significantly boosted itsimages as an organization seriously dedicated to revolutionary politics.YCL's activism reflected the central role the party had assigned it and which its politicalcommissar summed up in the four principles above: carrying out party directives;creating political awareness; pushing for a representative state; and assisting people ingeneral. Their work therefore took many different forms. On one level, the YCL wasengaged in national issues that reflected the party's long-term fight against what it consideredimperialist forces such as encroachment on Nepalese soil, or interference withdomestic religious institutions. This could be done through political campaigns, or directengagement with representatives of these foreign forces. On another level, it soughtto ease daily life locally by aiding neighboring communities to clear away the garbagethat piled up in the urban areas, by building new community organizations, solving64


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O Ncommunity or family conflicts, directing traffic and assisting the police in arrestingthieves and other criminals. On a third level, it sought to carry out the party's policieslocally, hosting programs to spread political messages or raise donations and helpingwith development projects such as the construction of roads. On a fourth level, it interactedwith local party cadres, coordinating work between the different fronts, arrangingmeetings and parades, and generally acting as an umbrella organization where it wasnumerically strong enough. Lastly, the YCL targeted their principal enemies, rival politicalcadres from the Nepali Congress and the UML who had their own youth organizations,the Tarun Dal and Youth Force, respectively. YCL leaders relate their role to theMaoist conception of „mass line‟ and the slogan „grasp revolution, promote production‟where they live „among the masses‟ in order to „serve the people‟. 28Up until the Constituent Assembly elections, the YCL was busy preparing theground. To organize itself more efficiently in Kathmandu, buildings were rented in eachconstituent area and turned into camps. Camps provided small hubs of full-time cadresthat could be quickly mobilized and, in accordance with the division of the YCL intoareas, they constituted a central office for the local branch of the organization. Campstherefore had a dual function: they brought activists together under one roof and theyfacilitated close cooperation with the neighborhood. This latter feature was an importantaspect of its function, and in my own fieldwork the YCL's Area Office, as camps wereofficially called, interacted with the local community through public campaigns ormeetings, as well as arbitrating in individual disputes. 29 At the same time, it provided alink between the party and the local grassroots, that is to say, party members from thesister organizations and other part-time activists who were dispersed around the area.28 Interview with Comrade Sonam, September 2009, wprmbritain.org.29 It has also been rumored that the YCL used its bases to pressure businesses into forced donations,and that the organization used its large network to control and profit from smuggling andsimilar illegal activities. Whether or not this has been the case, the organization was faced withthe challenges of raising money for housing and feeding its many members. Although campsreportedly had access to fields where they could grow vegetables - this was the case with Nayabastimembers who cultivated potatoes on a small plot nearby - this would only cover a fractionof the office's subsistence needs. On top of this came the financial burdens of rent, clothing andremunerations that needed to be covered. It has been reported by several commentators that thesalary paid to PLA soldiers was diverted into the party organization and that this helped financeYCL, but this is an issue I have not been able to investigate. Lastly, it is not unlikely that someof the YCL's development projects were financed by the Village Development Committee officesas the official channel through which state funding is dispersed. It is around such projectsthat patrimonial networks of 'distributional coalitions' have historically been formed in Nepal(Paff-Czarnecka 1997), and it is possible that the YCL has been able to tap into these resources,particularly when the Maoists were in government. Questions of the YCL's political economy,however, were not shared with me, and it was one of the areas of information that I chose not topush, as I met considerable resistance when bringing up such subjects, and I am therefore notqualified to comment on this aspect of the organization.65


C H A P T E R 1The leaders of the Area Offices were also in charge of their areas, and therefore thecommanders of lower regional party committees and its members: VDCs, Ilaka, Wardand Tol. This organizational structure facilitated the politicization of society through thestrengthening of the local grassroots and, in this way, the YCL camps became importantunits in the Maoist movement‟s efforts to build a strong urban base in Kathmandu.Aside from being an institutional front through which the YCL could interact withthe public, camps were also internal organizational phenomena, the place the YCLhoused its whole-timers, providing them with training and educating them in the skillsand values of revolutionary cadres. This aspect of the YCL camps, as we shall see inlater chapters, was crucial for cadres since when not mobilized to party work, they spenttheir time inside its premises, and camps therefore became central social institutions forproducing the revolutionary subjectivity expected of the Maoist whole-timer force. Inemerging as the principal organization for continuing the revolution after the neutralizationof the PLA in principle as well as in practice, and in being the prime recruiter of anew generation to the prestigious identity of committed revolutionaries, YCL‟s role forthe post-conflict development of Nepali Maoism can hardly be overstated. YCL broughtthe Maoists to power in the Constituent Assembly elections but, more importantly, itfilled out the vacuum left behind by the severing of the movement‟s army and full-timecadre force and was, effectively, an organization built to bridge the specific challengesthe party faced when moving from a strategy of war to democratic politics. The YCLcan be said to straddle the traditions of two different revolutions, the Maoist guerillawar and the New Bourgeois Democratic Revolution that the CPN-M leadership had embarkedon, and the problematic of post-conflict revolutionary cadreship grows directlyout of these configurations of YCL‟s historic role, of shifts in revolutionary ideology,and of the role and function of whole-timer camps.Challenges to the peace processIn the entire post-war period, the CPN-M has been split between pursuing a negotiationtrack with other parties and launching a popular movement against the government.From the outset, the peace process had been challenged by conflicts between the CPN-M and the other political parties, in particular the Nepali Congress and its leader G.P.Koirala. Congress has been the dominant political party since it participated in the 1950revolution, and has fought against left-radical groups on several occasions with theirefforts at mobilizing the army against the Maoists during the People‟s War merely beingthe latest example. Congress leaders have been among the most critical voices againstthe Maoist‟s turn to peace and have opposed most of their political demands since the66


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O N12 Point Understanding of November 2005. 30 Maoist leaders had entered the peace processwith an intention to show „maximum restraint and maximum flexibility‟ (BaburamBhattarai in Ogura 2008a:38) and, in a situation where few of their demands were met,they vacillated between compromise, bargaining and withdrawal. It was thus severalmonths before the CPN-M finally joined the Interim Government after the ComprehensivePeace Agreement and, on 18 September 2007, the Maoists withdrew from the governmentand launched a series of agitation programs in order to force the parties toadopt 22 demands which they had declared as pre-conditions for the elections.The use of extra-parliamentary options for making political claims has been characteristicof the Nepali political scene as a whole (Lakier 2007) but it has in particular appliedto the Maoists, who have always navigated on the fringes of mainstream politicalprocesses. This has led to a situation that seems curious to outside observers wherebyCPN-M lawmakers may be participating as MPs in the government while their activistsstage demonstrations in support of the party‟s demands. Following the tradition of „peoplepower‟ from the jana andolans, political negotiations are therefore regularly backedby a show of force, and this is what Maoist leaders refer to as a „struggle on threefronts‟ – parliament, government and the streets. The YCL is an important player in thisconstellation because it can create pressure from the streets along with the CPN-M‟s„sister organizations‟, and it is not uncommon to see top Maoist leaders heading ralliesand shouting slogans against their opponents. CPN-M members stress the fact that theyare not merely a political party but also a movement, or in fact several movements representedby the different political wings, and this idea underscores their ability to conductpolitics „from below‟, independent of formalized political processes, and to reshapethe political landscape by representing public grievances (Snellinger 2007).Political agitation was therefore the normal state of affairs for the CPN-M‟s variousfronts, and especially for the YCL as the party‟s primary support unit. Notwithstandingtheir success in securing the Maoist electoral victory, the peace process quickly ran intonew problems once the CPN-M had formed a government in August 2008 and Prachandahad become Prime Minister. Before the Constituent Assembly elections, the twothorny issues of constitution writing and army integration could be postponed but oncethe first Maoist government was elected and declared Nepal a republic on May 28,2008, the hard work of finding a common platform among historical rivals became evident.30 Disagreements range from the wording adopted on the role of the monarchy in joint agreementsand political decisions taken by Koirala without CPN-M‟s consent, to the distribution ofportfolios in the Interim Government, and the restructuring of Nepal‟s electoral system.67


C H A P T E R 1The problems surrounding the PLA proved particularly difficult because the NepaliCongress and the Maoists had diametrically opposed perspectives on the issue at stake(ICG 2011; PCSC 2008). For Congress and other major political and civil society organizations,the Maoist guerilla army was a problem in terms of reintegrating formercombatants into society through community programs, re-education and economic support,and following international guidelines for DDR (Disarmament, Demobilizationand Reintegration) processes. Such an idea was vehemently opposed by CPN-M leaderswho argued that their army had not been defeated and should be treated equally with theNepal Army. What they envisaged was the creation of a new national army combiningthe Nepal Army and PLA soldiers, or at the very least integration of the verified PLAcombatants into the state‟s security sector.The PLA was understandably a major challenge for the Maoist leadership since ithad effectively become redundant in the current political context, and this situation putthe PLA at loggerheads with the rest of the party. The PLA had been the primary forcein the war, and had paid a high price for an offensive strategy in their battles with theNepali army. What they had received in return so far was a seemingly indefinite lingeringin the cantonments where they were completely sidelined from the political process.From CPN-M‟s perspective, integrating the PLA into the army had two important advantages.It would provoke necessary changes to the strongest remaining pro-royal institutionand the Maoists‟ most obstinate enemy from the war, and it would also be a wayof bestowing recognition upon the PLA soldiers who had, from the CPN-M‟s perspective,fought an honorable war for the sake of the entire nation.Precisely because of the Nepal Army's historic legacy, however, – its alliance withpro-royal forces, its long-standing opposition to the PLA, its image as an unpoliticizeddefender of Nepal – the Maoist leaders‟ push for integration of the PLA was severelyopposed at every step. During the first months of 2009, the Nepal Army escalated theconflict by hiring new personnel, flouting the Agreement on Monitoring and the Managementof Arms and Armies that accompanied the Comprehensive Peace Agreement(Martin 2010), a move which the PLA quickly copied, although it was eventually askedto back down. On May 4, 2009, after several weeks of failed negotiations between thegovernment and the army, Prachanda – in his capacity as Prime Minister – fired theChief of Army Staff. That same day, however, the President – who was a Nepali Congressmember – overrode Prachanda's decision and reinstated General Katawal, eventhough it was beyond the bounds of the President's authority to do so. The next day,Prachanda resigned from his post as Prime Minister, effectively pulling the Maoists outof the government, and a figurehead from the UML party, Kumar Nepal, was chosen asthe new PM.68


T H E M A O I S T R E V O L U T I O NThis was a serious blow to the peace process. Until now, progress had been slowand ridden with compromise but the Constituent Assembly had been elected with themost inclusive parliament in Nepal's history, and the Maoists had been leading the governmentfor almost nine months. When the CPN-M stepped down, Maoist ConstituentAssembly members started obstructing its procedures by shouting slogans against thePresident, and the major issues of the peace process – the fate of the PLA and the draftingof a new constitution – were left unresolved.The first years of post-war politics had thus seen the building of a political consensuswhich, despite remaining fragile, had progressed slowly: Nepal had become a republic,the Maoists‟ parallel governance had been dismantled, and efforts had been made torebuild the economy, strengthen social security and create reconciliation programs toheal the wounds of war. However the Maoist withdrawal from government had exposedthe schisms in the political coalition, and the CPN-M started to talk about starting a newPeople‟s Movement (Jana Andolan III) against the establishment forces that continuedto obstruct the peace process. It was in this political context that my fieldwork with theYCL unfolded, spanning four months of the Maoist-led coalition government from Januaryto April and six months where the CPN-M tried to launch a peaceful protestmovement. Up until the Constituent Assembly elections in 2008, the YCL had been activein building up the organization, mobilizing support and carrying out high-profilecampaigns. When the Maoists came to power, YCL activities actually died down, as theparty was preoccupied with bureaucratic procedures and political negotiations but, asthe conflict with the Nepal Army and the President escalated, they once again becamemore active in protest programs. However, since the period of the YCL‟s climax, whichseems to have been just around or after the Constituent Assembly elections, the organizationhas been on a path of decline. Following hefty criticism against the YCL fromboth political and non-political actors, Maoist leaders have regularly promised to stopthe YCL‟s extra-legal activities and, in January 2009, it was renamed the YCDL, YoungCommunist Democratic League, in order to boost its image. Although YCL leaders deniedthese developments to me, and a new recruitment drive was initiated in August2009, a third of the 26 cadres from the Nayabasti camp had left by October 2009 andjust over a year later, there were only two cadres and a handful of leaders left.CONCLUSIONThis chapter has outlined some of the major historical shifts in Nepal‟s recent historyand provided a context for understanding the rise and transformations of the Maoistmovement, and the way in which a commitment to an idea of proletarian revolution has69


C H A P T E R 1resulted in changing organizational and political strategies. The YCL, as I have tried toshow, stood at the apex of the shift from war to peace and in inheriting the position ofthe vanguard revolutionary organization from the PLA – including a good deal of itscombatants – it was expected to combine the virtues of the People‟s War with those of apeace process. Part militarized force and part political campaigner, the YCL was to actas a bridge between two different types of revolutions, and therefore carried on the ideaof being the revolutionary avant-garde without it being exactly clear what course of actionthis legitimized.A particularly revealing example of the insecurity that this resulted in was well expressedin a discussion between the two senior leaders in the Nayabasti Camp duringmy first visit. Nischal, the second-in-command, had proudly declared that, prior to theComprehensive Peace Agreement, they had been so busy that they would not have hadtime to accommodate me in the camp, and the same would be the case once the partywas able to carry out its reforms without being inhibited by the other political partiesthat continuously opposed them. In the meantime, he had explained, they were 'confusedas to what to do'. Just the other day, one of their cadres had been killed. Normally,they would have gone after the culprit and handled it themselves, he told me, but nowthat their party leadership was leading a coalition government, they were unsure how toreact. To this, the camp leader Pradeep had interrupted: 'Don't say that. The fact is thatour revolution is not complete.' Pradeep perceived that the current experience of „confusion‟was an aspect of the revolutionary trajectory that twisted and turned and sometimesseemed to be stuck, when in fact it was just moving ahead very slowly. For cadreswho had participated in the People‟s War – like Nischal – this required a reconceptualizationof revolutionary struggle in order not to get confused, and for new-coming cadresit meant developing an understanding of being the revolutionary avant-garde in apost-revolutionary climate.The YCL I came to study was therefore a temporary phenomenon that was a productof the wider political context of a democratic transition and an internal shift – andunderlying split – in the Maoist movement between two versions of revolutionarystruggle. What this meant for the young people who were mobilized to revolutionarypolitics is the theme of the remaining chapters.70


2 MOBILIZED TO CLASS STRUGGLEThis chapter explores the mobilization of new members to the YCL and to CPN-M‟srevolutionary program by drawing on interviews I carried out among cadres in Nayabasticamp and with other YCL members in Kathmandu. The analysis I offer focuses on theexperience of being a young laborer in the city and the kind of attraction that becominga Maoist member entailed. I argue that the young people who ended up as cadres wereinvited to change perspective on their social roles and identities, and that mobilizationtherefore primarily took the form of an extended conversation in which potential recruitsgradually adopted a Marxist class perspective on their life as laborers. Through anidea that the social existence of unskilled laborers indicated an experience of „exploitation‟,YCL recruiters presented young people with a model of „class struggle‟ throughwhich they could escape capitalist „oppression‟ and contribute to building a New Nepalby becoming cadres. Cadreship was thereby turned into a struggle not against the politicalstructures of society but against the roles, obligations and identities that framedyoung men‟s and women‟s experiences as laborers, thereby opening up to a perceptionof Maoist cadreship through the idiom of a personal sacrifice. Lacking the heroic contextof a soldier‟s sacrificial offering of a life, however, post-conflict cadres were insteadrecruited through the ambiguous identities of youth. In tracing the process throughwhich cadres become convinced about offering their time and youth to the party, thischapter establishes the ways in which sacrifice and youth frame experiences of revolutionarysubjectivity in the Maoist movement.A significant debate in the research on the Maoist movement has revolved arounddynamics of mobilization, and, in particular, people‟s decision to join the party‟s programof revolution. There are, roughly speaking, two perspectives on this: one strand ofresearch argues that structural factors and experiences of socioeconomic marginalizationpushed people into the movement because it offered an escape from the constraintsof social worlds (Lawoti 2010a; Eck 2010). The other perspective, which is not as widespread,considers the kind of socio-cultural space the Maoist movement was that made


C H A P T E R 2being a participant in it meaningful (Fujikura 2003; Zharkevich 2009a). What I seek todo here is to build on the first approach by describing the working life of young migrantsfrom rural areas, as this made them particularly prone to recruitment. I do not,however, try to argue that this was a decisive factor in their decision to join since thiswould make it difficult to explain why some have joined and others not. Rather, I considertheir background as relevant to establishing a sociopolitical category of an urban,Maoist class-subject that has made it attractive for the YCL to mobilize them. It is, inother words, the profile of young, unskilled wage laborers that rendered a proportion ofthe urban population relevant to the YCL‟s recruitment efforts, as they were seen toconstitute the proletarian class just as lower-caste peasants did during the People‟s War.In order to investigate how people understood and described their reasons for joining,I shall therefore lean mostly towards the second approach. The primary question Iseek to answer here is not just why people signed up to become maobadi but why theychose to stay. This is a much broader question and the approach is warranted by myfindings, which show membership to be a process never formally marked, and where itwas not so much the decision to join that eventually established membership of theMaoist community but a continued dedication. 1 This chapter therefore focuses on mobilizationfrom the perspective of people who have already joined and have some experienceof cadre life. Becoming a Maoist party cadre in the post-war period was by nomeans a popular move and was criticized by lay Kathmandu denizens who were generallyfed up with the politicization of society, as well as by family and friends whodoubted that it would benefit the cadres‟ individual careers. Some parents furthermorefelt that they had already given children to the revolution during the People‟s War; wasit really necessary for more children to serve the political struggle when peace had alreadybeen attained? Against such a background, how can we understand some cadres‟choice to stay despite critique from different social corners and the hardships of cadrelife that we shall hear more about later?To explore this, I focus on how cadres framed their personal experiences of mobilizationand the way these tied into, and made use of, the CPN-M‟s vocabulary on class,struggle and sacrifice. These constituted the chief ideas around which cadres were invitedto reflect upon their social and political positions, and therefore became essential1 It is easy enough for people to approach a YCL leader and be granted permission to live in thecamps, and I heard of many who came swiftly and left just as quickly again when they realizedit was not quite what they wanted. Membership of the YCL was not very tightly controlled duringmy fieldwork, and there were people who participated in the organization‟s activities as ifthey were members when they were not, while others who had left the camp still consideredthemselves to be cadres in their absence and would show up for some events and be treated withrespect.72


M O B I L I Z E D T O C L A S S S T R U G G L Eheuristic tools when young cadres interpreted, narrated and re-evaluated their decisionto become members. The chapter starts by showing how cadres were recruited fromtheir positions as unskilled laborers and how a moral economy was tied into the widespreadexamples of migrant workers, which cadres had started questioning as a viablemodel for spending their most productive years. The second section discusses how recruitmentinvolved a shift in perspective, and that it was through conversations with partymembers and friends that young people developed an interest in, and reason for, joining.The third section asks what, then, constituted the new perspective cadres were beingmobilized to, and it explores ideas of hardship (dukha) and class struggle (sangarshan)as crucial notions through which cadres recounted their experiences. Thefourth and last section explores how, parallel to the idea of cadreship as a struggle, adiscourse on sacrifice developed through which cadres interpreted their relationshipwith a notion of janata, „the people‟, and themselves through dilemmas of youth.MOBILIZING LABORERS AND MIGRANTSSuraj is a young man of 18 – tall, energetic and bubbling with self-confidence. If hecould have, he would have liked to become a rapper. I still remember him listening attentivelyto the American artist Eminem on my music player, doubled over his handwrittentranslations to the printed lyrics I had given him in English, and struggling tofollow the rapid, staccato recitations and explosive metaphors of his favorite musician.Suraj has lived all his life in Kathmandu with a Newari father and a Tamang motherwho died when he was six years old. An only child, he grew up with his father in asmall rented apartment. He would come home to an empty flat after school and find therupees his father had left him to buy khaja – snacks – until he returned in the eveningand the two of them could cook a simple meal. „We were quite poor,‟ Suraj recounts,„and after my mother died my father changed. He used to drink a little but now hedrinks at any time of the day. He is a bit of a drunkard.‟His father wanted Suraj to be well-educated and managed to pay for the boy‟s firstyear of tuition in a local boarding school. Suraj studied hard and came out first and secondin his class for many years thus getting his fees waived for the coming schoolyears. In this way, he managed to study for free all the way through to 7 th grade but hisfather was unable, or unwilling, to help him out when he was once again required to payschool fees and Suraj was therefore forced to cut short his education.73


C H A P T E R 2Suraj had left home when he was 12. He had argued with his father, and instead hefound a local family where he could live and work as a servant. 2 Because he was still inschool, they allowed him time off to attend classes and prepare his homework, but theremaining time he spent working in the house of his new masters, his sahu. 3 When hefailed to pass his school exams as a top student, this work arrangement also broke downbecause the family he served was not interested in paying his fees. Suraj, now 15, lefthis half-secure but defunct position as a servant-cum-student; he was angry and disappointedat not being able to continue his studies, and he walked straight out of town,through Jorpati and out to the small village of Thali. By sheer coincidence, he asked anold man by the side of the road if he knew how to get a job and, shortly after, Suraj hadbeen hired as a laborer for a small construction company. The next year, he toiled awayin Thali doing hard manual labor, and the following year, he changed jobs to work for apainter, thereby returning to his father‟s line of work.In the middle of Jorpati, Suraj rented a small room for only 300 rupees per month.He lived alone, working during the day and hanging out in the „hotel‟ downstairs in theevening, where he would eat his khaja. This was around the time the YCL was established,and CPN-M members would regularly come and go as they had an office in thebuilding. One day, Suraj was approached by a party cadre who, Suraj later recalls, hadbeen watching him for a week, and he asked him if Suraj was interested in coming withhim to join their struggle „against imperialists and brokers‟. They talked for a while andSuraj particularly remembers him saying: „Now people have been coming to the front[of the struggle] and it is time for the lower classes to join in the mainstream as well. Itis only people like you who can transform society completely.‟Suraj was sympathetic to this line of reasoning. He had heard talk of the Maoistsand the YCL but not in particularly flattering terms. Suraj, however, had already startedquestioning, as he put it, „Why rich people become richer and the poor only poorer‟ andwhen he visited the camp for the first time, his concern was to evaluate whether theywere genuinely committed to this agenda. After returning to his room and reflecting onthese new inputs, he decided to give it a try. He felt that other people‟s criticisms of theparty were „illusory‟ and, in his opinion, „the party was absolutely working on behalf ofpoor people‟. By this he meant that it was trying to „free‟ the poor from the „trap of therich‟. Suraj explained that this had influenced him a lot and was the reason he chose tojoin the party. Furthermore, he saw in his own history a precondition for appreciating2 These servants are referred to as kamgarnes (literally „those who work‟) and in lower-middleclass families in Kathmandu, it forms part of a modern rural-urban economy that has been superblyanalyzed by Saubhagya Shah (Shah 2000).3 A term that denotes owner, merchant or moneylender. Alongside the term malik, these two arethe common ways of referring to masters or guardians of household servants (Shah 2000:88).74


M O B I L I Z E D T O C L A S S S T R U G G L Ethe difficulties that the poor must suffer, since he had also worked for sahus since hewas twelve:One thing I learned was that since I had a poor background, I've learntwhat difficulty is; what it means to work hard. The rich kids don't knowwhat the poor eat and how hard they work.Suraj‟s story is illustrative of the new members in and around Nayabasti in the periodI observed, where the YCL‟s ambitious plans for quickly erecting a mass organizationhad resulted in a large-scale recruitment drive among the young, urban proletariat.All of the post-conflict cadres in Nayabasti came from this class segment of the population,with a history of wage laboring since their early teens, and all but two stemmedfrom minority ethnic groups with low-caste status. In addition, none had finished elementaryschool, and two had not attended at all and were practically illiterate when theyjoined. The Jorpati neighborhood, where the research was located, has only come intoexistence over the past two or three decades and comprises a mixture of rural migrantsand Tibetan refugee camps. Its economy is dominated by privately-owned, small-scaleindustries which supply a local market with garments, furniture and building materials.These businesses, known locally as „factories‟, attract young and unskilled laborers(Graner 2001; 2002) and almost all of the YCL‟s new members, counting 20-30 wholetimersand 100-150 part-timers during 2009, originated from these low-income sectorswith precarious working conditions. Cadres‟ recounted, for instance, how they werelured into working for months without pay and would have to search for new incomeopportunities while they were being cheated in one way or another.The cadres‟ entry point to membership was thus through the labor market and viatheir socio-economic class position as poor and unskilled; at the bottom, as it were, ofNepal‟s class hierarchy and what the CPN-M designates as the urban proletariat. This isimportant when considering the cadres‟ mobilization process because it was by drawingon and posing a contrast to the experiences tied up with „proletariat‟ labor that the Maoistmovement offered itself as an alternative. What defined this experience of laboring,for my interlocutors, was not simply the volatility of employment but also its aimlessness:that it did not lead anywhere and was, therefore, pointless.Suraj had probably felt something along these lines when he had to drop out ofschool and had found himself, a few years later, in the same line of business as his father.An even more potent example of such an experience of proletariat labor, however,is Rohit, an 18-year-old Tamang from Makwanpur who joined the YCL around the timeit was established in early 2007. Rohit felt that his life before becoming a cadre was theresult of an aimless wandering in which he tried to react to different opportunities butwithout a clear idea of what it would lead to and where he was going. He recounted:75


C H A P T E R 2It was in the year 2055 [1999] that I first entered Kathmandu. I was verysmall at the time, my brother was a thekedar [a senior position] in the carpetfactory. I came here to study and my brother also put me in school. But Iwasn‟t interested in studying; I quit and learned kick boxing instead. Then Ifelt that I had to earn money and that nothing could be gained by learningkick boxing, and I changed my mind and started in a carpet factory weavingcarpets. One of my aunts then telephoned me from India and she advised meto learn traditional dance, since there is a lot of scope for this in India. Sofor three months I learned that here and then I went to Maharaja to meet myaunt and she also showed me the school where I had to study. But I didn'twant to study and all the students and teachers in the school spoke Marathi.I couldn't stay there.After some months I returned back to Nepal and once again started in thecarpet factory. One of my dais [senior relative] suggested that I take languageclasses but when I went to the language center, they told me it cost1200 rupees, which I can't pay. Again I went to India, this time to Agra, andgot involved in some labor, and again I returned to Nepal. It was then that Istarted to question my own life, „why am I just wandering like this?‟ and finallyI got involved in the party. From there I realized that even if you havea aphno manche [a network] in Kathmandu, you have to do everythingyourself.Rohit had been navigating between career opportunities since he left school in hisearly teens, and this had taken him to Maharaja and back again to Kathmandu, then toAgra and finally back to Nepal. But it frustrated him that he could not see where thiswould lead, and he gradually lost faith in the ability of his social network to help himand in his ad-hoc planning. When Rohit returned from Agra he began to meet up with afriend who had become a YCL member, and it was through him that he started thinkingabout a different way of spending his time.He told me about the Marxist ideology and I got inspired and inquisitive tolearn more about the Maoists, and it was also popular at the time. I readmany books and understood that there are only patriotic people in Maoistsor Marxist movements … It was neither out of interest nor out of compulsionthat I joined. It was my inner heart that told me to join. I asked a dai [senior]who was in the CPN-M and he said that if your heart says so, then youshould join.Rohit saw his move into the party not merely as yet another tactic in a long line ofnavigation (see Vigh 2006; 2009) but as a break with his more or less random engagementsand therefore also as a break with a specific model of social navigation. He highlightedthat he was not „interested‟ in joining the same way he had been interested inkick boxing, and nor was it a compulsion to earn money or follow the advice of kin thatled him to become a member. Rohit used the metaphor „inner heart‟ to describe this dif-76


M O B I L I Z E D T O C L A S S S T R U G G L Eferent way of looking at and navigating life, and, for Rohit, Maoist cadreship became asolution to the questions he had started asking of himself with regard to his „wandering‟.Moral economy of migrationTo understand what it was that Rohit and other cadres were seeking to break away from,we need to look at the moral economy tied up with this kind of proletarian labor,through which young people could better their life chances and attain status as adults. Acrucial concern for YCL cadres, and one that followed them throughout their time in theCPN-M, was precisely the viability of poorly paid labor as a strategy through which togrow up and secure a respectable social position. To the extent that cadreship offered adifferent livelihood strategy, it competed with labor, both as an economy resulting inincome and as a model of status and social exchange.This „moral economy‟ of labor, as I refer to it here, revolves around young people‟sability to support their family through wages, and the prospects of returning to one‟svillage in order to build a house (for the men) and get married. Important here was thefact that, despite having lived in the city for a number of years, almost all Nayabasti‟scadres were rural migrants and had strong links to their villages. Wages earned them asalary through which to fulfill obligations of kinship, which for the men involved expensesfor younger siblings‟ weddings and their parents‟ livelihood needs, thus tyingthem into these social networks of exchange. As was the case with Rohit, several of thecadres had worked on and off in India, as migration was the primary strategy for findingsalaried employment for the uneducated and rural young men and women that comprisedthe YCL. Young laborers‟ participation in the urban economy involved movingout of their family households and therefore described a process of independence andself-reliance, outside the influence and support of kinship structures.To be a young laborer in Kathmandu‟s industries was therefore to be in the processof personal maturation, partly separated from kin and village but still tied into its moraleconomy of reciprocity. It is not difficult to understand the dilemmas cadres were facingas laborers, caught between their insecure positions and social expectations, and the waythis resulted in questions similar to the one Rohit asked of himself: was he on the righttrack? Was this the kind of life he wanted to lead? Between the expectations of kin andthe maturation of perspective that followed from moving into a new social environmenteven before they became Maoists, the young laborers had already started questioningthe viability, coherence and attractiveness of living their life – or at least their youth – aswage-laborers.The dilemmas that led the laborers to embrace Maoism were sometimes expressedby cadres through the conflict over money; between their families expecting it, cadres77


C H A P T E R 2desiring it, and their sahus seemingly going out of their way to avoid paying it. Moneywas at the heart of the relationship between the young migrants and their families in thevillages. As laborers in Kathmandu, they had been expected to send money to their familiesand, when returning for holidays, they would bring small gifts that signaled theiraccess to money. The predicament of earning money to secure their own future andsupport their families was well expressed by one of the cadres:They still expect me to make and send money to them. Also, they wish Icould make my own future. Things are expensive in our village. So, money isimportant. I have realized that money is the biggest thing.Money and migration were two faces of the same coin, reflecting the extent towhich rural areas in Nepal are based on subsistence economies, and how access to cashrequires traveling to urban centers. The expectations for young able-bodied men fromrural villages of pursuing migration careers was so strong that some of the cadres evenexpressed personal dilemmas regarding this obligation in the first place. One of thesewas Kamal, an 18-year-old Tamang from a poor area in the south. Along with two olderbrothers, he had been allowed to attend school until he was 14 but, by then, the pressurewas on him to contribute to the family‟s subsistence and he accepted an offer of work ina furniture factory in Kathmandu:I was in a dilemma between studying and helping my family. It was my compulsion(badhetta), that's why I left school and came to Kathmandu. Foreconomic reasons.A key point in leaving their homes and villages behind was thus that they couldraise money in line with their family‟s expectations and, over time, also prepare themselvesfor their adult lives by being able to literally invest in their own future throughthe purchase of land, houses and marriage. Migration was not just an economic strategybut a model of growing up, one that involved crisscrossing processes of separation, obligationand personal maturation, and which rested on a continuous relationship withclose kin. Money was possibly the strongest expression of the moral economy of migrationand an issue that kept haunting cadres even after they moved into Nayabasti.YCL recruitment strategies were based on breaking these bonds of loyalty to anethic of labor migration by helping cadres appreciate the exploitation they were sufferingat the bottom of the economic food chain. This required mobilizing potential recruitsto change their perspectives on themselves and the moral economy of wage labor, becauseit was only through such a voluntary and personal process of interpretation and reevaluationof their lives that the YCL and the CPN-M could offer an alternative.78


M O B I L I Z E D T O C L A S S S T R U G G L ESHIFTING PERSPECTIVESuraj and Rohit had framed their decision to become cadres as a maturation of perspective;Suraj had become interested in a political pro-poor agenda whereas Rohit had spokenof a lack of focus in his earlier migration strategies and a conviction that joiningCPN-M would be a wise decision. Both cadres had experienced work as wage-laborersand the disillusionment it fostered for their futures, and they were persuaded by the ideathat the Maoists presented something different. To explore the dynamics of this persuasionand the way it linked in to the conversations that cadres held with party memberspreceding their enrollment, I turn now to the case of a 30-year-old YCL leader. Hariforms an interesting contrast to present-day cadres by having been mobilized during thePeople‟s War and originating from an urban middle-class background, but what uniteshis case with the situation I am exploring is the mutual reliance on a continuous conversationwith the party and its ideas as the key dynamic through which mobilization unfolds.We 4 met Hari on a Wednesday morning in a small office-building close to thePashupatinath temple. Like all YCL leaders I had met, Hari gave the impression of atrendy middle-class urbanite with his motorbike, smart sunglasses and a hands-freeheadset for his mobile phone. Prior to becoming a cadre, Hari had worked for a localNGO repatriating trafficked Nepali women from India but had left because of disagreementswith his boss, who was more interested in churning out money for the organizationthan in rehabilitating the women after their return to Nepal. An analogous inheritancedispute with his family over the property left behind by his mother‟s death lefthim disillusioned and Hari related that over the next 3-4 years, he spent his time in thecompany of friends, on the lookout for fast money and a quick fix.„Those were my black days,‟ Hari explained, and when he first me Bharat – the undercoverMaoist who was to become his friend and stepping-stone into the movement –he was in fact on a bus trip to the southern city of Birgunj to buy heroin, which was veryexpensive in the capital. This was in 2001, during the People‟s War. Hari had givenBharat his phone number, and for a long time, Bharat would show up out of the blueand stay overnight at Hari‟s place in Kathmandu. In the beginning, Bharat just advisedhim against taking drugs: „You are the young generation,‟ he had said, „and you are theenergy of the nation. You are wasting your youth. Think about Nepal.‟ Hari had ignoredhim, thinking that Bharat was just trying to confuse him and, since he was an addict, he4 I always conducted interviews with one of my three field assistants. When I refer to „us‟, thisincludes one of my assistants unless otherwise mentioned.79


C H A P T E R 2explained, he was trapped in his own world, which revolved only around supplyingdrugs.It turned out that Bharat was testing him, however, and one day, he called on Hariand hurriedly told him that he had a valuable bag of illegal items that needed deliveringto somewhere else in Kathmandu. As long as he was well-paid, Hari was game and hewas given a telephone number for his contact at the other end of town. Over the next sixhours, Hari was routed from place to place, past several check-points and always told byhis contact that it was too dangerous to meet right here because the police were searchingpeople with bags. In the end, he was told to return the bag to the starting point andhe angrily approached Bharat, complaining about how he had been ordered pointlesslyaround. Bharat had smiled, given him another 1,000 rupees, and asked him to empty thebag that he had so meticulously protected. It contained nothing but bricks and rubble.Hari was perplexed, and became even more defiant: why had he risked his life over suchan invaluable cargo? But Bharat had congratulated him on the fact that he, unlike theother two who had also been given the same assignment but had run off at the first signof trouble, had „passed the test‟.It was at this point that Bharat revealed his identity. „We are the revolutionaries(krantikari) and need your help.‟ This had not impressed Hari, however, and he demandedmore money for helping them. Bharat had asked Hari to come and participate intheir programs but Hari had demanded 1,000 rupees 5 just to show up, and Bharat hadindulged him – much to Hari‟s own surprise: „They must have seen my potential,‟ hemused. The strategy worked, however, and Hari started listening to the content of thespeeches of the CPN-M leaders and slowly became won over by the arguments, mostnotably by the idea that the young generation has to contribute to the transformation ofsociety.This was around the time when King Birendra and his family were massacred in aspectacular ordeal in 2001. Hari had liked the king very much. He shaved his head insympathy, as is customary for grieving male relatives of the deceased, and took to thestreets together with many other Nepalis to attack the police with stones. This waswhen, he explained, „I became a bidrohi [rebel] in my heart.‟ He met on and off withBharat although the latter was very busy due to the ceasefire negotiations in 2002 and,shortly after, Hari heard that his mentor had been ambushed by the army and killed.Hari was still only half-heartedly involved with the party but the sudden death of his5 Equivalent of 10 Euros in 2009. In comparison, cadres‟ monthly salaries as laborers wouldhave been somewhere between 2,500 and 3,500 rupees per month. Even by 2009 standards,1,000 rupees is a huge sum to pay for attending a meeting.80


M O B I L I Z E D T O C L A S S S T R U G G L Efriend grieved him deeply. „He used to inspire me,‟ Hari recounts, „by saying that I am adiamond with a layer of dust on it, and that is why I am not shining.‟Hari resolved to give up his „drug habits‟ and become a proper CPN-M member.The first part was hard enough but the second proved curiously complicated. For securityreasons, Bharat had been Hari‟s only contact with the party, and he suddenly foundhimself alone in the town when the Maoists were only operating in the villages. He triedto travel to Pyuthan and Rukum far west of Kathmandu as this was reputed to be one ofthe movement‟s strongholds, but the army posts would not let him pass even though helied that as a drug user he needed to get out of Kathmandu to escape his addiction.So Hari was forced to return to Kathmandu without having established contact withthe party. Whenever talk fell on the conflict, he found himself taking sides with theMaoists and increasingly defended his position with reference to the Marxist analysis ofsociety that Bharatdai had taught him. People started criticizing him for „becomingmaobadi‟ but he was defiant, as he had become genuinely impressed by the depth andrelevance of their political program. „So what if I am maobadi,‟ he would retort, „I canthink what I want, I am a free person.‟Not for long. The army had been watching him and, in December 2003, he was arrestedand confined to the ill-reputed army barracks of Singha Durbar on false chargesof fundraising for the CPN-M. More to the point, he had openly been suggesting that theroyal massacre of 2001 had been orchestrated by the king‟s brother Gyanendra – a popularconspiracy theory of the fateful event (Thapa 2005:23, 28ff) – but as Gyanendrahad dissolved parliament and assumed absolute power only a few months prior to Hari‟sarrest, this was a very dangerous position to be taking.Hari was tortured during his confinement in the army headquarters. He had onlyhad his nose free, while the rest of his body was completely covered, and his hands weretied behind his back. The prisoners were made to sit outdoors in the scorching sun allday, and without jackets to shield them from the cold at night. Water was served out ofa mug that was used for cleaning the toilets, and the daily meal was a simple plate ofrice and lentils. Hari was routinely kicked and beaten with rifle butts, even on his head,and the army doctor was helpful in feeding him painkillers although the beatings continuedunabated. The prisoners could not see each other because of the perpetual blindfoldthey had to wear but were aware of each other‟s presence in the long hours of thenight when they were coughing in the cold. Whenever he heard a soldier‟s boots marching,Hari knew that one of them was going to be pulled away, and this was the scariestpart: „It‟s my turn next, they will take me.‟Due to Hari‟s family connections, he was eventually released. His grandmother hadshown up every single day at the general‟s office to inquire about her grandson, patient-81


C H A P T E R 2ly sitting there all day, and his relatives had pushed their connections within the army toeffect his release. As soon as he was out, the family arranged for him to leave the country,fearing his obstinacy more than the authorities: „They knew my nature, I always dowhat I like and do not listen to others.‟ The first two months he was confined to bed,recovering from his prison stay, and after that he was sent to Hong Kong, from where hereturned after a month, and then to Bangalore, where they managed to keep him for 2-3months, and eventually to Mumbai.He again returned and then the popular uprising of April 2006 (Jana Andolan II)suddenly brought the Maoist cadres back to the capital, and Hari quickly establishedcontact and became actively involved in organizing and carrying out protests against thepolice. From there, it was a short distance to commencing preparations for the upcomingelections following the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and gathering newmembers in his own house, where he set up the very first YCL office in his area. Afterreuniting with the party, Hari explained, it was much easier for him to identify with therevolutionary struggle and commit himself full-time to the movement and its activities:An ideological purity developed in me. I followed the path of Bharat anddreamt of becoming a martyr. During the party‟s programs, when observingsilence in respect for the martyrs, I always remembered Bharat‟s face. I rememberedhim for his determination and revolution.Hari‟s story very clearly exemplifies the way in which mobilization involved a shiftin perspective. His transformation to a party cadre was encapsulated in his relationshipwith Bharat; it was Bharat who showed Hari a different path, indeed became Hari‟spath, and Hari apparently had a long road to travel from his drug addiction to what hecalls an „ideological purity‟. His path into the party was a long and winding one that reflectedthe gradual maturation of his perspective under quite unique circumstances, andhis preparation in becoming a cadre is thereby externalized, that is to say, it is narratedas something that happens in his environment; through Bharat‟s death, his failed effortsat re-establishing contact with the party, his torture, his recuperation and his eventualreunion with the party during the People‟s Movement. Hari‟s case thus highlights processesthat are otherwise implicit and largely hidden but which are, nonetheless, centralaspects of the shift to cadreship as they reflect the kind of changes that other YCL cadresalso expressed.How does Hari‟s case compare with the YCL laborers I researched? Almost all ofthe Nayabasti cadres, as explained, had been working in Jorpati‟s small industries, andthis was also an important pool of recruitment, judging by the histories I recorded; potentialrecruits in the factories had been approached by experienced party members asthe first step in their process of joining. Based on the stories I heard, senior Maoist ca-82


M O B I L I Z E D T O C L A S S S T R U G G L Edres would frequently visit these sites and talk about the important work the party wasdoing for the country, or point out that people were being exploited by their boss andurge the young laborers to contribute to building a new post-war nation by becomingMaoist cadres. These introductions did not need to be very complex, or even ideological,because laborers in these economic sectors came from poor educational backgroundsand were young, and I was told by many that they had known very little of thecountry‟s history before joining, several even claiming that they had never heard aboutthe People‟s War and the Maoist movement, or only vague rumors.It was through conversational processes, just as with Hari, that cadres slowlywarmed to the idea of exchanging their life as laborers for one of political activism. Cadresfurthermore often involved their personal networks before taking the decision toquit their job and move into Nayabasti, thereby extending the conversation into differentand more intimate circles of discussion and advice. Several of my interlocutors highlighted,for instance, that, in forming their opinion of the party and the pros and cons ofjoining, they were in fact inspired by conversations with friends or family who were alreadymembers and whose experience could help them make a decision. Suraj‟s socialnetwork was not very strong and he took the decision by himself but by far the majorityof the Nayabasti cadres knew some of the others in the camp from their previous workexperience or had joined at the same time, and it was customary when cadres spoke oftheir early encounters with the CPN-M‟s political program and worldview to mentionthe presence or influence of friends, satu. 6This replayed the young people‟s general dependence on kinship networks, and justas their position in the labor industry had been negotiated, arranged or even demandedby kin, it was likewise through the support of select family or the inchoate group ofsatuharu (friends) that cadres had taken the decision to become maobadi, Maoists. Oneexample is that of Rituraj, who was a part-time YCL member in Jorpati and who hadbeen a member since before the peace process. Rituraj remembered the first conversationthat introduced him to the world of Marxist philosophy. He had been visiting his6 In line with cultural idioms of social networking, friends belong to the circle of aphno manche(literally „one‟s own people‟) that one can trust and approach for help. The term satu is quitebroad and can apply to fellow villagers or workers; it was also the standard way of referring toother party members that cadres‟ knew personally. This is quite unsurprising in the context ofNepal where a long history of weak and absent state institutions in the rural areas in particularhas underscored the need for strong social networks. The network structure of aphno manchedesignates those who can be approached whenever the need arises. According to the anthropologistDor Bahadur Bista, in his book „Fatalism and Development‟, the success of the individualin Nepali society depends upon who one knows rather than what one knows, and an individual‟semplacement in aphno manche networks is so strong that he is reluctant to jeopardize it, unlessthere is an option of „crossing the line from one circle to another‟ (Bista 1991:98-99).83


C H A P T E R 2brother, who had also invited a friend of his, and this friend was from the party. Thatevening, the Maoist satu had been talking about the People‟s War, and Rituraj had listenedintensely:That night he told me everything, and we only slept 2 hours. Everything hesaid was interesting. Everything he said was true, but I was also thinkingabout my family because if I were caught, the soldiers would harass them. Iwas in a dilemma. For days and months I was really in a dilemma: should Ijoin and contribute to society? On the other hand, I am not from a richfamily and I also have to think about my family. So I was confused (September2009).A little later on, Rituraj met another party member through another friend, and thisguy, Rituraj explained, „told me the same stuff, only a little differently‟, and it was afterthis second conversation that he had decided to join.Yet, despite this presence of friends when cadres‟ formed their perspectives on theMaoist option, my interlocutors vehemently rejected the idea that it was because of theirsocial relations that they had joined. Joining the YCL was understood as a decision takenindependently of other people‟s opinions, and one based on a maturation of perspective.Interestingly, therefore, cadres were rarely asked to join directly but were insteadpresented with information about the party and its ideology. It was then up to them toshow an interest and explore the possibilities of becoming members. This turned cadresinto the active agents of their own recruitment, one that started with the realization thatthe laborer‟s life they were leading was unsatisfactory for personal or political reasons,and that joining the YCL was a step in the right direction.So far, I have shown how cadres were recruited from their class position as laborersand how a moral economy was tied into this form of livelihood, which cadres startedrealizing through conversations with members, friends and other pro-party voices. Inthis process, which could be long or short, potential recruits were broadening their perspectivesand beginning to interpret their lives around some sort of lack, and the conversationshelped them realize not only what was wrong with their life as laborers but alsopresented them with a new model of moral and social engagement. But if cadreschanged their perspective away from the moral economy of (migrant) labor, what didthey change it to?FROM HARDSHIP TO CLASS STRUGGLEIn all four cases visited so far – Suraj, Rohit, Hari and Rituraj – the process of becomingmaobadi has been formulated with some reference to Marxist ideology: Suraj talked ofthe relationship between rich and poor, Rohit explained that it was through reading84


M O B I L I Z E D T O C L A S S S T R U G G L EMarxist books that his „inner heart‟ told him to join, Hari had slowly been won over bythe Maoist political agenda and had now developed „an ideological purity‟, and Riturajhad awed at the „truth‟ of a party member‟s political perspectives. This was not just randompraise for the CPN-M or uncritical repetition of what senior members had taughtthem but personal appropriations of a huge repertoire of the party‟s many-faceted discourseson communist ideology and Nepali politics. Building a new perspective was acrucial component of enrollment since, as shall become clear in later chapters, it wasvery difficult to endure cadre life without a changed perspective and a strong commitmentto the CPN-M‟s political ideology. But what was the new perspective offered bythe Maoists and how did cadres integrate it with their own experience, allowing it to becomea personal perspective and a personal decision that was not taken because of loyaltyto friends? As I shall explore here, cadres‟ mobilization involves a shift from what Icall hardship (dukha) to struggle (sangarsha) as two different perspectives that epitomizecadres‟ life as laborers and Maoists, respectively.The notion of struggle, as YCL cadres employed it, is a Marxist term and connectedto class position. That CPN-M members used such a terminology when recruiting cadresis well exemplified by one of Rohit‟s friends, Bibek, who was invited to start thinkingabout his laborer life in class terms, even if on a quite rudimentary level. Bibek hadworked with a group of other migrants in a carpet factory but had not received the expectedpay prior to the Dashain holidays, which was something they had been relyingon, and so they were now looking for new work. Bibek being the oldest of them at theage of 16 had come to ask Rohit for advice but had instead run into Nayabasti‟s In-Charge, Pradeep, who had asked him why Bibek and his friends did not come and jointhe YCL rather than toil away as wage laborers. Pradeep had explained how working fora salary did not make sense: „You work and work but it doesn‟t change anything and,after many years, when you have grown old and weary, everything is still the same‟. Inother words, you are working hard but someone else is reaping the benefits of your labor.This immediately struck a chord with Bibek and his friends. Rajesh, who wasamong them, said he had not known anything about the party until that day when Bibekhad returned and recounted what the YCL In-Charge had told him, and he had been veryimpressed: „Compared to other parties,‟ he explained, „it is only the Maoists that containreal ideas and work for the people‟. He was also frustrated at working under the sahuand weaving carpets. „The sahu scolded us a lot,‟ he continued. „He did not pay us ontime and the salary wasn‟t very good anyway so, to fight for the equality of all, I joinedthe party.‟85


C H A P T E R 2Bibek and his friends began to see their life as laborers as a dead end, and that theywere being exploited rather than merely randomly cheated. There was a systematicity towhat happened to wage laborers, and this was the structure of class oppression. Rajesh,for instance, had first worked for two months in one factory, then for four months in another,and lastly three months in the Gokarna factory before he and his friends had startedlooking for something better. „They don‟t look after us,‟ he exclaimed, „it was not aworking environment‟. When I interviewed Bibek about why he joined politics, he immediatelyconnected his own childhood with capitalist exploitation:I was very slow in the village, I didn't know very much so I thought that if Ijoin the party I can become very clever and I can learn much about politicalthings … many of the capitalists exploited people and it is only the Maoistswho were fighting against this. The party can give those people freedom,who are really suffering from the capitalists.Bibek explained that, when he was in school, there were many cases of how his parents„suffered from capitalism‟ because they had to borrow money just to pay his school feesand when they did not have enough food they sold their labor carrying stones, etc. „Thecapitalists were not satisfied,‟ he said. „They treated my parents badly, trying to exploitus and always complaining, “your work is not good”‟. When thinking back on his life,Bibek said it was the moment he quit school and came to Kathmandu when he felt thathe was not being treated fairly. „I also became the victim of exploitation,‟ Bibek explained,„and I felt it inside.‟This intimate link between capitalism and personal suffering provided cadres with asense that they experienced their own proletarization and was, I would argue, an importantaspect of the new relationship between members and the party because it allowedcadres to cast their personal experiences in political terms. Such a „political experience‟rendered the abstract notions of class and class struggle into concrete and tangiblerelationships between the capitalists who exploit and the poor who are exploited. Tobe on the receiving end of this class hierarchy was not merely to be a victim, however,but indicated a particular type of agency, a struggle, that revolted against being oppressed.Let me flesh this out by providing a brief discussion on the CPN-M‟s discursiveconstruction of the class concept, which is also present in Nayabasti through the Maoisttextbooks that cadres are required to read. Briefly, in a Marxist analysis of society, thosewho own and control the means of production exploit the workers by extracting surplusvalue from their labor, which in turn allows the former to consolidate their economicpower and transform it into political and cultural dominance. The discourse on classgained currency during the People‟s War as CPN-M‟s political program reflected deepfeltlocal concerns of injustice and was deeply rooted in a Maoist understanding of feu-86


M O B I L I Z E D T O C L A S S S T R U G G L Edal society. 7 In rethinking society along the lines of class, the CPN-M leadership hadproduced lengthy and specific analyses of its „class nature‟, most particularly with regardto evaluating the matrix of support and enmity from different groups (CPN-M1995). As a vision of the social, however, what they have been able to champion is aboiled-down and simplified version of class that leaves only two opposing forces: theoppressors and the oppressed. This can, for example, be seen in the way new cadreswere taught about the configuration of class. In a textbook that cadres were given tostudy Marxist doctrine, a defining distinction is made between „two kinds of people‟:those that live „without doing any labor‟ and those who must „endure hard labor‟. Thedivision stands between „the oppressed groups‟ and „the oppressors‟ who „exploit hardworkingpeople‟ and „enjoy life based on the labor of others‟. In explaining how thesetwo classes are mapped onto society, the text continues:Both of these groups can be found in society but many oppressed groups canbe found in the villages. They work day and night. These hardworking peopleare called farmers. Another group of people exploit the farmers. Theyare called feudal. Similarly, in the city the workers working in the factoryand industry are being oppressed and exploited by the owner. In the villageas well as in the city, both the oppressed and oppressor groups can be found(Introductory Communist Education).The class concept that grows out of this perspective is not merely descriptive but atool for understanding the nature of society and, more specifically, the nature of oppression.Before providing its distinction between two classes of people, the reader is askedto observe society around him because „to know the people living in a society, it is necessaryto observe social reality‟. It is in following up on „social reality‟ that the reader isinstructed that „there are two kinds of people‟. What this class concept invites us to do,in a nutshell, is then to observe (society) and divide (into two classes). It is particularlyin this sense that I would like to think about the CPN-M‟s notion of class – as a perspectiveon the social which is related to general ideas of sociality and politics. 8Returning to Bibek and Rajesh, this can help us frame their political experience as„exploited‟. In contrast to, say, the middle-class experience in Kathmandu where people7 This has been documented by several ethnographic accounts (Shneiderman & Turin 2004; Fujikura2003; Lecomte-Tilouine 2010b; Zharkevich 2009a; Ghimire 2008), and Sara Shneidermanhas suggested that the Maoist movement employed a „practical ideology‟, by which shemeans a transformation of theoretical Marxism into „concrete economic reforms, relevant to thedaily lives of villagers‟ (ibid.:304).8 While this is not to argue that the CPN-M‟s analysis of inequality is content with this distinction– the relaunching of the theoretical Marxist publication Rato Jhilko in 2009 is a case inpoint – there is a sense in which the idiom of class that their political success has popularizedhas taken a highly dualistic form. It was definitely present during my fieldwork as a rhetoricalway of talking about society and a central tenet around which mobilization was verbalized.87


C H A P T E R 2are seen to be sandwiched between their class others and must endure a deep-felt anxietybound up with the reproduction of status and fears of falling (Liechty 2003), the classperspective evoked through the idea of oppression is entirely different. From this vantagepoint – far below as it were – there is no anxiety, for to invoke the Maoist frame ofclass is to perceive very clearly where one stands in relation to others; one is either alliedor in opposition. In other words, to become a class subject in Marxist terms and inthe position of oppressed, which was where YCL cadres belonged, was to gain a newkind of energy from which one could act upon the class hierarchy and its structures ofdomination.Compulsion to serveThe way the class position of oppression stimulated cadres to enact their own liberationwas encapsulated in their use of the term compulsion, badhetta, to explain mobilization.Becoming political activists was something they simply had to do once they had understoodthe class nature of Nepali society and their own unhealthy place in it. When cadresspoke of badhetta, it referred to an obligation that weighed on them and which theywere not necessarily interested in but with regard to which they felt they had no real option.Kamal used badhetta in the example above when talking about his decision toleave school and engage in the migration economy. He did it because it was expected ofhim, not because he wanted it. During a conversation with Suraj in which I challengedhim about his prospects for advancement in the party hierarchy, he expressed a similarsentiment. I had asked if he was satisfied with being a regular cadre for years and takingorders from seniors when he was not offered a better position in the party, but he sweptmy inquiry aside with the simple answer: „Of course I am satisfied because my compulsionis to change the nation.‟ In other words, he had not become a cadre to enrich hisown personal opportunities.What Suraj seemed to be saying was that it was an obligation for him to be a revolutionaryjust as it had been an obligation for Kamal to leave his school behind andwork as a migrant laborer. The implication of this is that, from one perspective, therewas no structural difference in becoming a cadre because it involved the same kind ofshift as engaging in a labor economy. One was doing this simply because it was felt tobe necessary. In this sense, badhetta built on a continuation of accepting to do what wasrequired, while introducing a break in how one perceived one‟s place in society. In usingthe term badhetta to describe their decision to become activists, cadres played on arecognized relationship of submission to cultural norms of personhood, thereby underliningthe importance of becoming politically engaged. The cadre Himal, who alsojoined at around the same time as Bibek and Rajesh, was unambiguous in linking his88


M O B I L I Z E D T O C L A S S S T R U G G L Epolitical commitment to the trope of badhetta. He said that he was no longer just thinkingabout his own world and fulfilling his own and his small family‟s needs. As a cadre,he felt he was struggling for the whole of Nepal and even for the whole world. „I think itis a compulsion,‟ he explained. „I found out that proletarian people were being suppressedand that motivated me as the party is able to liberate those people.‟Not everyone couched their commitment to their cadre life in the notion of badhetta.Rohit explained above how he specifically did not join just because he felt compelledto but because his heart told him to. Whether using one or the other cultural tropefor convincing the ethnographer about the sincerity of one‟s intention, I think the idea ofbadhetta suggests at its most basic that becoming a cadre is a serious matter that shouldnot be taken lightly; it involves difficult and unpopular decisions, and it is based, or isaccompanied by, a rather radical reconsideration of one‟s place in society and what aproper life path would be.If it were then a compulsion to join the revolution as an effect of one‟s class perspectiveand class position, what kind of engagement did this compulsion entail, whatwas the „cultural work‟ specific to becoming a cadre? It is against this backdrop that thenotion of struggle enters – as a continuity that is also a break. Struggle was seen by thecadres as a strong undercurrent in their lives; since they had become laborers they hadhad to struggle, but their entire upbringing was also recounted as a kind of struggle – ofdays full of menial tasks in the household for as long as they could remember, of thedeaths of family members, of the impossibility of continuing their studies in which newworlds of knowledge were opening up, or of the absence of parental love, as in Suraj‟scase.The female cadre Ashmi exemplifies this perspective. She grew up in a slowly disintegratingfamily in the far west, where her father‟s inability to accept his lack of maleoffspring tore the family apart.My father died when I was young, my fellow villagers said my father hadreally wanted a son but we were all daughters, my sisters and me. Becausehe didn't have a son he drank a lot and played cards. Other villagers hadsuggested that he remarry so that he could get a son. We are 8 sisters. Oneday, once again my mother became pregnant but he just went to Udhaipur.Then my mother gave birth to a son and one of the villagers on the way hadtold him to return now that his wife had born a son. He said he would returnbut he didn't and he went to India. My mother became very frail and weakafter that and slowly she died.With first the mother dead and later also the father, the eldest sister took over the runningof the household and made sure Ashmi attended school. The family‟s calamitieswere still not over, however. Soon two of her sisters also died and even her youngbrother, leaving only the six sisters, and Ashmi went to Kathmandu to work in the gar-89


C H A P T E R 2ment industry because one of her sisters had already moved there in the course of hermarriage.Ashmi reflects on her life as one long struggle but, rather than seeing her cadre lifeas a break from struggle, it is on the contrary struggle that links her new engagementwith her previous life.Life is a struggle. When I was in the village, I was struggling as I did in thecarpet industry and here I am also struggling in one sense. Life is a struggle;you have to compromise with so many things. Now I am living andworking here. People think that we are just eating and sleeping but we arealso engaged in our own struggle in here.Suraj had said a similar thing about why it was natural for him to become a Maoist cadre:„Since I come from a poor background, I've learnt what difficulty is; what it meansto work hard.‟ Struggle was thus expressed as a condition of life for the young cadresboth before and after they joined the party.If we dig a bit deeper, a slightly more complex picture appears. The word Ashmiand others used to refer to struggle was sangarsha. Sangarsha belongs to a Marxist vocabularyand is often connected with class to become „class struggle‟, barga sangarsha.Struggle in this form is at the very heart of the CPN-M‟s political project and is prominentin their documents and speeches. 9 It is fundamentally linked to the Marxist classperspective because the labor class is, by nature, always an oppressed class insofar as itpresupposes a class above. It can therefore only exist, by definition, in opposition to aruling elite, and the only viable answer to this repression – particularly in the CPN-M‟sdualist philosophy – is to overthrow the capitalist class through continuous barga sangarsha.To identify with the „downtrodden‟ thus implies a willingness to fight on theirbehalf and the „compulsion‟ of cadreship prefigures this positional struggle; it is necessaryprecisely because it describes the nature of the lower class position, i.e. struggle isthe proper mode of being for the oppressed classes.What cadres are suggesting with their retrospective analysis of their life as one ofstruggle is that this class position has been inscribed in their histories and bodies fromthe very beginning, and that they are therefore ideally posited to carry out this form ofstruggle. Although Ashmi is trying to (re)cast her childhood through the notion of sangarsha,this hides an important sliding of meaning, however.9 Barsa Sangarsha probably derives from Hindi, which would be in congruence with the Nepalicommunist movement‟s close historical links to the Indian communist parties. In any case, thewords for struggle in standard Nepali do not include sangarsha, which lends credibility to theinterpretation that the expression has gained currency in Nepal through its political appropriation.90


M O B I L I Z E D T O C L A S S S T R U G G L EThe common way to talk about the hard conditions of life is not sangarsha but themuch more passive notion of dukha, which can also refer to sadness. Dukha is, in fact, awidely used Nepali term to denote everything from small daily problems (it was „dukha‟to be stuck in traffic) to all-encompassing feelings of being down. This was how cadresusually talked about their life as laborers when they wanted to highlight that it was tediousand unsatisfying. 10 That this difference was, in fact, important can be gauged byhow one of the cadres tried to bring the two into simultaneous view. Bijay, the third ofthe friends who joined in Bibek‟s group, had this to say when I asked him about how heunderstood sangarsha, struggle:It is [the same as] hardship (dukha). Sangarsha means dukha. For example,if you go to the garden and start to dig then that is also sangarsha. If somebodyis engaged in getting rid of a dukha that engagement process is calledsangarsha. Right now, we are determined to overcome every difficulty. Imean to say that we are involved in an andolan [political movement] andalso involved in dukha. In the end, we will definitely reap the fruit. We arepassionately struggling by involving ourselves … For this we might shout[slogans] during our involvement ... If you do not sow the seeds of orangesthen will the oranges ever appear on the tree? And to eat it, you at leasthave to use your hands. Similarly, we are also here for the sangarsha.Bijay is offering an interesting analysis here. First, dukha and sangarsha appear tobe the same. His short and immediate answer to my query as to what sangarsha meanswas the Nepali „dukha ho‟ (it is hardship). This is in line with Ashmi‟s interpretationthat the hardships of her childhood can be thought of as one long struggle. Then, howeverhe offers a more nuanced and radically different analysis. Dukha is, in fact, theprecondition for struggle, that which must be overcome through struggle. Struggle thusappears as the solution to dukha and not just as its twin. Struggling offers the possibilityof „reaping the fruit‟, which is absent from the notion of dukha. To take the oppositionbetween the two terms even further, dukha denotes a passivity that sangarsha turns onits head and brings into motion: dukha is here a closing down of opportunities, a positionone can be stuck in, whereas sangarsha describes a becoming, a move towards itsundoing.Is it possible that it is this specific dynamic between dukha and sangarsha that describesthe shift of perspective that cadres talk about? Several cases that I have discussedseem to support this analysis. Suraj‟s identification with a life of hard work anddifficulty as a precondition for his move to cadreship establishes a dynamic between anexperience of dukha and the necessity of turning this into a struggle. It is precisely be-10 The word garo would be used to expressively pinpoint that something was difficult or strenuousbut this did not form an important context for talking about the values of mobilization.91


C H A P T E R 2cause he knows what it means to labor, because he understands the hardships connectedwith his class position, that he finds an urge to struggle in the sense of fighting back, oftaking the necessary steps to address his class condition. Rohit made a similar connectionwhen he resolved to give up his „aimless‟ life and start taking himself more seriously.After „roaming around here and there,‟ he explained, „I realized that one has to do alot of struggle. One has to consider everything seriously and develop what I think.‟ Rohit‟sinterpretation of his shift also hinges on a focus on struggle in contrast to „roamingaround‟. Struggle, in Rohit‟s narrative, indicates a sense of direction that was lackingbefore; it allows him to focus. Or, more precisely, struggle is the very form that the focustakes, as Bijay spelled out with his botanical allegory.Summing up, cadres‟ life as wage laborers was hence understood to be a structuralproblem that kept them from developing, and which turned their socio-economic navigationinto a negative experience. In order to escape the harmful effects of labor underexploitative sahus, they had to break with the kind of navigation, which sought economicsecurity through temporary employment. This required breaking with the entire moraleconomy of remittances and filial obligations that required such a strategy. Maoist cadreshipdid not offer a different avenue of livelihood through which young people couldfulfill family expectations or attain a higher socio-economic position. In fact, as weshall see, it was deliberately modeled so as to negate this experience altogether. What itdid offer instead was an entirely different perspective on how cadres should understandtheir social roles – their wish to earn money, to build houses, live up to family ideals, ordo things merely out of interest – and this new perspective started with a reframing ofworking life through the idiom of class struggle. Cadres had to learn, or in the first instanceto appreciate, the necessity of struggle as a way of living.We can begin to see the contours of how entering into a relationship with the CPN-M and its youth wing took place through the wholesale reframing of social identities,turning the coordinates of the labor economy on its head and using it against cadres toshow them the injustices of Nepali society and recruiting them to act upon thisknowledge. From Suraj via Hari and to Rohit, Rituraj, Bibek, Rajesh and Ashmi, wehave a body of young people who have started questioning their predominant role insociety and resolved that they want to do something to change its class structures. WhatI have argued so far is how the practices of mobilization convince cadres that they haveto start this process by changing not the socio-political system but their perspectives ontheir lives and, by extension, their own values and priorities. But what does it mean tochange oneself from a laborer into a cadre? What are the consequences of seeing oneselfthrough the trope of class struggle rather than simply hardship?92


M O B I L I Z E D T O C L A S S S T R U G G L ERECRUITMENT AS SACRIFICEConcurrent with the argument about the shift from one model of social becoming (themoral economy of migration) to another (class struggle), I have also tried to show thatwith this change of perspective, cadres‟ past was recast into experiences of oppression,and their new engagement thus involved a redefinition of their social obligations. Withinthe idiom of class struggle, it is no longer sufficient to satisfy the expectations ofone‟s relatives because the task one has undertaken concerns society as a whole. A crucialshift then occurs in how relevance is understood; working for a salary and providingfor oneself and one‟s immediate kin – whether in the direct form of money or the socialregeneration of households and position – does not solve anything as it cannot addressthe basic structures of inequality. Instead, one must struggle on behalf of the entire laboringclass, those who are structurally positioned in an oppressed position vis-à-vis thecapitalist class. In a basic sense, then, one‟s obligation towards relatives has been replacedwith an obligation – or even a compulsion – towards a wider socio-political category.It is here the idea of sacrifice becomes important. It was a central tenet aroundwhich mobilization occurred and was often evoked in conjunction with sangarsha. Rohit,for instance, explained his role as a cadre in YCL in this way: „We work on behalfof peasants and the downtrodden and the majority of the population, not for the bourgeoisieand the rich. We have to contribute, struggle and sacrifice.‟ Of course, this – aswith the values of mobilization in general – is not a commitment that suddenly appearsbut part of the perspective shift that cadreship on a whole involves and which therebymight outgrow previous modes of relating to society. I had asked Rohit if he found itdifficult to „struggle and sacrifice‟ and he had answered that in the beginning everythinghad seemed very „difficult and complex‟ but that his „heart had never lost hope‟ (remember,it was Rohit who spoke of his decision to join as a decision in his „innerheart‟), and now „I really want to sacrifice myself‟.Sacrifice, as another cadre well expressed, had become his „dream‟. It was a way ofboth contributing to society and turning this into a personal project. „Everybody has tofulfill their dreams one day, and I dreamt that why should not I fight for a good causeand the upliftment of poor people?‟ Nihar, a 23-year old Magar from Siraha who hadworked for more than five years as a laborer in Jorpati‟s factories, had been comparativelyslow in deciding to join but when he did, he was already clear about its significance.He was tied to his life as a laborer in a very concrete way because he owed hissahu money, but once he managed to pay that off, he explained, he was finally „free tojoin‟. He could now embark on his „dream of sacrifice‟ through his fight for the poor.93


C H A P T E R 2It was, then, a project that could be deeply personal without being selfish. Kamal,who recounted his dilemma about having to leave school and work in Kathmandu andhad yet chosen to do so because it was his badhetta, spoke about the „happiness‟ of hissacrifice: „I am happy with the revolutionary life; the feeling of serving the nation andthe majority of people.‟ Kamal allowed that there was another type of happiness outsidea revolutionary‟s life, one that also involved sadness (dukha) and entertainment, but thisbelonged to a personal domain and was irrelevant in the current context. He spoke ofsuch feelings as „memorable‟, as if they were petrified objects that belonged to the past,and instead he highlighted that „someone has to take the initiative‟, i.e. the CPN-M hastaken on itself the arduous task of liberating the nation. Being on the right side of thefight for liberation and recognizing this was in itself gratifying. In a memorable passagethat also speaks directly to the issue of how the yet uninitiated are convinced to jointhrough conversations, Kamal explains the difficulty of talking about this newfoundhappiness to his friends outside the party:It is not simple to convince my friends outside. You cannot just talk aboutthe revolution and the party. But it also depends on you. You can show themthat every day there is a choice between liberation in one hand and death inthe other. We all die one day and before we die, everybody has to performsome kind of role that serves humanity. You have to convince your friends ofthat.Kamal‟s sacrifice was rewarding because it served humanity as well as realizing hispotential for contributing to something important in his life. This allowed happiness totake on a more general quality and bring a different set of criteria into focus, beyond thememorabilia of personal life. Happiness, as was explained by another cadre (Himal) wasnot about satisfying personal needs, but about „seeing peace prevail‟, about „giving ethnicminorities right‟, and ultimately about the „development and emergence of a prosperousNepal‟.The dream, happiness, or compulsion of sacrifice are therefore not ultimately performedfor one-self but for the nation, the downtrodden classes and for the general ideaof liberation. It is aimed at bringing equality and rights to those who are being discriminatedagainst whether they are fathomed as „proletariat‟, „oppressed‟ or „poor‟ and thisway to forestall the coming of a „New Nepal‟. Sacrifice thus bring into focus, more sothan struggle and compulsion, the relationship between cadres and their new social obligations.This obligation is both about a specific group of people and concerns the developmentof the country, and the double quality of what cadres are sacrificing for is best encapsulatedby the popular term janata, „the people‟, because they are tied to the fate ofNepal, constitute its majority, and still retain the referent to constituting a class with re-94


M O B I L I Z E D T O C L A S S S T R U G G L Egards to the oppressors. Sacrifice transposes cadres‟ social obligations from their familiesand onto janata. Just like the former were central figures in cadres‟ decision to becomelaborers so janata has become a referent point for their new engagements and forthe class struggle. It is now janata‟s well-being and condition that cadres must respondto; their needs which prescribe what is important and therefore how relevance and happinessis measured.Far from just being a fancy way of tying people to the party, my argument here isthat the idea of sacrifice became entangled into the very fabric of cadreship as a corecomponent of what it meant to be a proper cadre – exactly one who was willing to sacrificefor the sake of janata. One should therefore allow the full weight of the term, as areconstituting of the relationship between self and other through the emergence of a newBig Other (janata) and the manifestation of an unbound plea that ties the two together.The cadre, from this perspective, is nothing if it cannot be connected to janata throughthe plea of the sacrifice.Sacrifice in the post-conflict context was strongly connected to the history of therevolution. When addressing party cadres, leaders during my fieldwork emphasized theimportance of continuing the struggle that so many had already sacrificed their lives for,and which had now taken a different form but was of equal importance to the victoriesgained during the People‟s War. Cadres also underlined this link and turned it into apersonal project. Thus, many directly expressed their own decision to sacrifice as a continuationof, or indeed respect for, those who had already given themselves to the struggleas Nihar here:I was really influenced and inspired by those people who fought in the armyand jungle without caring for their lives … Similarly many people died andsacrificed their lives and I found that so many people have sacrificed themselvesso why shouldn't I?Commemoration for fallen comrades is institutionalized in the Maoist movementand is a dominant theme in poems, essays, songs, political speeches and cultural programs(see Mottin 2010). 11 Sacrifice in the present context draws heavily on the experienceand history of soldiering during the People‟s War, and is set as an example to befollowed by present-day cadres. Yet, politically motivated sacrifices have a much longer11 This commemoration is also part of national politics with the Maoist-led government declaringmany thousand fallen from the People‟s War as „national martyrs‟ and thereby bestowing onthem not just public recognition but also the state‟s obligation to compensate their families. Thishas, of course, become a controversial issues with rival political parties claiming that the CPN-M only considered their own casualties as martyrs. Meanwhile the Maoists have created a newmovement for the „families of the disappeared‟ which incidentally also includes the civiliandeaths that Maoist cadres have been responsible for. The British ethnographer Ruth Marsdenhas described and analyzed this interesting aspect of post-conflict politics (Marsden 2010).95


C H A P T E R 2history in Nepal and draw on the complicated relationship between the king and his subjects.Incidentally, sacrifice is a cornerstone of Hindu worship as discussed in the introductionbut in the institution of war, the practice of substitution – whereby an object issubstituted for the self in the sacrifice – is replaced with a direct sacrifice: the warrioroffers his own life to the king and this kind of sacrifice is designated as a balidan, aself-sacrifice. With his balidan, the loyal warrior affirms the king‟s authority and regeneratesthe nation through the spilling of his own (and others‟) blood (Lecomte-Tilouine2006; 2010a).According to the French anthropologist Marie Lecomte-Tilouine (ibid.), the NepaliMaoists built on this notion of sacrifice during the People‟s War and the soldier‟s deathwas therefore seen as a noble sacrifice honoring not the gods and the king but the nationand its people, janata. But the revolutionary sacrifice was also regenerative in anotherway that transgressed the Hindu warrior‟s sacrifice. Unlike the latter, it did not restoreorder but open up a space for continuous sacrifices for the on-going struggle. Consequently,the blood that colored the ground did not settle the divine anger the way sacrificesin the Hindu tradition are thought to do but only made them more bloodthirsty. Arevolutionary‟s balidan was an example to be followed and thus pointed towards moresacrifices. It thereby reinvigorated the struggle by demanding more sacrifices and themomentum this opened up for was radically different from the Hindu sacrifice. Whereasthe latter can be seen as a temporary disorder that is returned to a peaceful order oncethe fighting is over, in the revolutionary struggle sacrifice is constitutive and is thereforethe only „order‟ there is.Sacrificing youthHow did this change in the post-conflict context where the focus was no longer on thetaking and giving of lives? What constituted a proper revolutionary sacrifice for theyoung YCL cadres? Actually, the YCL leadership itself is giving us some clues in howto approach this change. From a report by one of its regional leaders in Kavre, the roleof the YCL is introduced in the following manner:YCL Nepal is a young and very active organization. With the changing politicalcontext, this organization is formed to help in eliminating the strongfeudal chain in changing the structure of New Nepal. This is an organizationof organized youth heading forward in a progressive direction.The crucial words to notice here appear in the last sentence. The „changing politicalcontext‟ and the work of „eliminating‟ feudalism is not envisioned through war but by„heading forward in a progressive direction‟. The seemingly clumsy repetition of thismovement („forward‟ and „direction‟) only underlines the point: the role of YCL is not96


M O B I L I Z E D T O C L A S S S T R U G G L Eto kill its enemies but to show them the „progressive‟ path. At another place in the report,a similar gesture is pronounced. „YCL is the army of the 21 st century‟ and thismeans it carries neither weapons nor uniforms, but „stays among the people‟ and is a„political organization‟ (rather than a military one) that plays the role of „Red Guards‟ inthe Chinese Cultural Revolution.In a similar manner, YCL is seen as a force that patrols the gains of the revolutionarywar and makes sure that society develops in a „progressive‟ manner. In a CPN-Mmagazine distributed among its cadres, aptly entitled „youth voices‟, Wuma Bhujel fromthe YCL Central Committee has written an article to inform cadres about the importantwork confronting them. Under the heading „Question of the formation of a new culture‟,she writes:According to comrade Mao „youth are the major active and living forces ofsociety. They desire to learn more. They are not orthodox in their thinking.‟Responsible youth are being victimized by feudal capitalism and the wrongculture of imperialist. Because of this, they are heading towards the wrongpath. Day by day, youth are becoming irresponsible and chaotic due to feudalsuperstition and the vulgar, porno literature of imperialism.The major and important work of revolution is to destroy the feudalistic,capitalistic and imperialist culture and replacing it by new value and culture.Despite of all this, large numbers of youth are trapped in a wrong culture.A beautiful world can only be imagined through a severe struggleagainst these hazards. To concretize this imagined world, YCL will spearheadthe transformation and make all youths head towards the right direction.This, then, is the challenge confronting present-day cadres: to install a new culturethat reflects the „beautiful world‟ imagined by the movement. Youth is at the center ofthis struggle; they are the victims of imperialist culture and they are in special need ofrescue because they constitute the „major active force‟ of society. The new path thatYCL is treading is a path for „progressive‟ youth who should be showed the „right direction‟which points towards a „New Nepal‟. 12 In the report from Kavre referred to above,the link between youth and the YCL is also highlighted:12 The centrality of youth in YCL‟s discourse reflects a society-wide focus on young people atthe present historical junction both as an object of social policy and as a distinct agent in transformativepolitics (Shakya 2009; de Schepper & Poudel 2010). As discussed in the introduction,youth have become an important operator in transitory politics in Nepal, and the Maoists is onlyone actor among many in a contested political field that all vie for youth through different visions.In this regard, Mark Liechty has argued that the middle-class culture discussed above wasone such very strong movement that constituted youth as a category in Nepal (Liechty 2003). Asargued by Ina Zharkevich (2009a), CPN-M also participated in such a „youth economy‟ duringthe People‟s War by mobilizing youth to a radical social vision that particularly concerned them97


C H A P T E R 2Taking into the consideration of present transitional phase, this organizationis based on the characteristics of youth and it will intervene in each andevery element which is „anti people‟.How does this affect the structure of sacrifice? Essentially, youth became the operatorthrough which mobilization was expressed and consequently that which the cadrescould „offer‟. It was because of their youth that cadres could contribute with somethingspecial to the movement. This was expressed by cadres in a variety of ways: „I realizedthat my youth period must be used for the upliftment of the poor (Suraj); „I was addressedas a youth [and told] that we youth have to transform society. This really inspiredme ... We are involved for the youth.‟ (Santosh); „We are the energy of the nation.You are wasting your youth‟ (Hari); „I thought that if youth like us don‟t join, thenwho else is going to?‟ (Himal). In contrast to the self-sacrifice of balidan which concernedthe whole person – life as such – post-conflict sacrifice was focused on a specialpart of the self, which was envisioned as one‟s youth. What did this imply?It is important to be precise here. Incidentally, it was because of their „youth‟ thatpotential cadres were relevant for the YCL. This was highlighted by one of the party‟slocal leaders in an interview I conducted half-way through my fieldwork. I was interestedin how they decided to which of the many sister organization‟s new cadres should bemobilized, and was told that,youth want redemption from exploitation, and ideological leadership is givenby the party. The main thing is to complete the people's revolution andfor that aim youth are organized in different sectors. Our aim is to find outhow efficiently the youth can be mobilized. Many youth do not go to collegeand schools and they get involved in YCL.Much more fundamentally, however, it was also their „youth‟ – as a vital part ofthemselves – that they were bringing into the struggle. At its most basic level, this concernedthe obvious fact that to move from one‟s position as a laborer into a camp andsevere these economic relations implied a „sacrifice‟ of a salaried position. What wasoffered here, in a nutshell, was time. The time that one had been spending as a laborerwas turned towards another project and whence „freed‟ from its former relation, as sowell expressed by Nihar when he realized that he was „free to join‟ YCL. The movementof time from one domain to another was in fact clearly perceived by cadres as anelementary aspect of their wish to become revolutionaries and expressed as „giving timeto the party‟.This was actually stranger than it sounds. To become a cadre through the wholesaleexchange of one way of life with another – which moving into the camp actualized –as a category. It was, as Zharkevich explains, „a new way of being young‟. YCL is a continuationof this youth project but with an even stronger stress on youth.98


M O B I L I Z E D T O C L A S S S T R U G G L Ewas in fact not the principal way of entering the party, nor the YCL. But it was definitelythe most auspicious. The crucial distinction here stands between WTs and PTs,whole-timers and part-timers, which I introduced in Chapter 1. As the word indicates,WTs are full-time members whereas PTs are not. PTs can therefore lead regular civilianlives – hold jobs, live with their families – besides working for the party. WTs, on theother hand, have given themselves fully to the revolutionary struggle and there is no residueof civilian life standing between them and their commitment. The practice of WTshas changed in the history of the Maoist movement but, significantly, it was already aterm used during the early years of the Communist movement to denote cadres whowere experienced and dedicated. During the People‟s War, WTs constituted the core ofthe movement, particularly as PLA soldiers, because to participate on the side of theMaoists and hide from the government forces in the „jungle‟ precluded the continuationof regular civilian life.In line with this tradition, YCL WTs were considered more devoted than their PTfriends, not only by the WTs in the camp but equally among the local PTs I talked to.The signifying difference was exactly that their sacrifice was total and uncompromised.Because they had severed themselves completely from their previous roles, and by extensiontheir obligations towards their families, they were free to serve the party andjanata around the clock. One of Nayabasti‟s leaders expressed it this way:Compared to other sister organization [of the party] and other organizationI worked with, it is different [here]. They don't camp. They have relationshipswith the neighborhood and have to settle their family problems but unlikein those organizations, the members working for YCL are free fromtheir families. You have to be fully engaged in all activities even though youare sick etc.This made the WT YCLs special in the eyes of the rest of the organization. Camp member‟ssacrifice was more complete simply because it was „whole‟ and the word „wholetimer‟points to this crucial hierarchical distinction between the two categories of members.While it is clear that cadres were sacrificing their time in becoming cadres, the timein question also seemed to be tied in a unique way to „youth‟. Not only was this directlyexpressed by cadres who recounted that their sacrifice concerned their „period of youth‟and of „giving one‟s youth‟, but it also came out in their ambiguity towards the „forces‟of youth. On the one hand, youth was seen as a potentiality along the lines expressed bythe YCL CC-member above; youth were active, desirous of new knowledge, unorthodox.Cadres further highlighted that youth were „strong and fast‟ and that it comprisedan especially energetic period that was not correlative to biological age as long as onehad a youthful mind – i.e. „progressive Marxist thinking‟ as Suraj explained to me on99


C H A P T E R 2one occasion. One of the camp leaders by contrast suggested that the only thing that setyouth apart from others was bravery (himmat) and did therefore not only concern the„mind‟. Accordingly, a 90-year old could be a youth, he told me, while cowards of anyage did not deserve to fall in this category. On the other hand, youth was also seen as adevious substance if it became influenced by „bad forces‟. Such youth could be identifiedby laziness, or a preference for alcohol and drugs and were referred to as bigreko,meaning „spoiled‟ (literally „broken‟). Hari insinuates that he was such a youth beforehe slowly became transformed, one that was caught up in thinking about where he couldget the next fix.This threat of spoiled youth was a concern for the cadres. Accordingly, Bibek explainedthat apart from the exploitation he suffered by the sahu, there were also „manyyouths‟ in the factory who were „spoiled with drinking and smoking‟. Bibek was afraidof getting spoiled himself because many of his friends were engaged in such activities,and he was certain that if he had stayed longer with them, he would also have becomespoiled. Prakash, who had eventually left the YCL due to his realization that „the mostimportant thing is money‟ was nonetheless painfully aware of the risks of getting involvedin what he called „bad work‟. He had come from a poor background with manysick family members, including a handicapped sister who had been infected by „evilair‟, and his whole childhood, he said, was penetrated by his obligation to look after theothers so that he could neither play with his friends or go to school. „There was no happinessin my childhood‟, he had told me without a grimace. This reflected on his outlookon youth. „I learned‟, he explained,that I should not get involved in bad works like gambling, drinking, or beingenvious towards others … I have seen man youth in Kathmandu who arerich but have not got an education. It is, I think, due to the fact that theirparents do not behave properly with them and also, they cannot controlthem.‟Youth like these, according to Prakash, became uncontrollable and by extensioncould end up in „bad works‟ if they were not careful. It was in fact not wholly uncommonfor YCL members to have such a history. Sabin, for instance, used to go stealingwith his friends when he was a village kid and he was especially popular among hisfriends because he was good at conceiving plans. They were considered „bad‟ by thevillagers, he explained, and this was even though they did know of our stealing, or soSabin presumed, because they stole from neighboring villages rather than their own.This kind of spoiled youth, which the cadres later learned to speak of in correctMarxist terms as corrupted, was therefore the flip side of the energetic, brave and progressiveyouth that led the struggle for a new „anti-imperialist‟ culture, towards the NewNepal. Youth was therefore an inherently ambiguous figure and one which was, crucial-100


M O B I L I Z E D T O C L A S S S T R U G G L Ely, not external to themselves but part of their past or potential futures. It was not onlySabin who could recount his process of becoming a cadre as a move away from aspoiled youth. This was in fact a common theme and could be recounted like Ravi didhere:When I was young and hadn‟t joined Maobadi, I was just like any otheryouth – drinking and roaming about. Now I have changed my mindset andengage in social work and help society.Becoming a cadre could then be thought of as a transformation of one‟s youth, ofgetting rid of the latent or actual spoiled parts of it and cultivating its „progressive‟ aspects.The sacrifice cadres express is intimately tied to this process. Youth can here beseen as a container both of time and of an bi-polar morality, and in offering the time ofyouth to the party, cadres are also bringing an inherently ambiguous substance to theirpolitical being. If youth is then a „force‟, it must be wielded correctly to attain the desiredgoals and the remainder of this thesis traces how the ambiguity inherent in the sacrificeof youth is played out in their life as cadres.CONCLUSIONThis chapter has analyzed the mobilization of young people to YCL in the post-conflictcontext by paying attention to the underlying shift in perspective that follows cadres‟recruitment process. I have argued that, by virtue of being wage laborers in a remittanceeconomy, new members occupy a position of „oppressed‟ in the CPN-M‟s class analysisof society and that decisions to join the movement involve a break with a way of lifethat reproduces rather than confronts structures of „class exploitation‟. This realizationleads to the notion of class struggle as the cultural work of cadreship and results in areassessment of cadres‟ social position and worth; rather than being obliged towardsone‟s own interests or relatives‟ expectations, cadre life now comes to revolve aroundjanata, „the people‟, and leads to the idea of self-sacrifice (balidan), which – in the postconflictcontext – is expressed through the ambiguous identity of youth. What does suchan analysis of mobilization suggest?On the one hand, I have tried to show how the shift of perspective involved in becomingcadres is traversed by two crisscrossing movements: first from non-laborer to(migrant) laborer, and then from laborer to cadre. Cadreship involves a shift that is botha continuation and a break: In terms of continuation, it builds on the laborer‟s personalidentification with class subjects, one that they recognize through the „exploitation‟ ofthemselves and/or their parents. They are already laborers and simply have to recognizethemselves in CPN-M‟s idiom of class – a shift of perspective (albeit an important one)101


C H A P T E R 2and not one of position. In terms of break, the move from laborer to class involves themove from dukha (hardship) to sangarsha (struggle) which, one could say, fills the newclass position with its content. If the labor position was defined by hardship and money,the new one by contrast has combined these contradictory experiences into a focusedstruggle against a common (class) enemy, one – as we have seen – that is partly internalizedthrough the reference to youth. Due to their backgrounds as laborers, the newpost-conflict cadres in the YCL are already „experienced‟ in the primary cultural workof struggle, albeit only in its passive mode of dukha. All that mobilization then requiresis a willingness to transform the laborer‟s class experience into a more productive form.On the other hand, cadreship, as I have traced it here, is ultimately an unstable project.At least with regards to the YCL, it should be understood as being based on alarge-scale shift of perspective to class struggle which is inherently inconclusive becauseit is not based on any other force than cadres‟ sincere willingness to becometransformed into better persons, into progressive youth. It is a strenuous shift as it involvesso much more than simply participating in a new social project; cadres reevaluatetheir own history as one that leads to this insight, and one which implicates an entirelydifferent mode of being vis-à-vis one‟s social others. One is no longer primarysomeone‟s son, daughter, brother, sister or villager but a kind of social transformer, i.e.a revolutionary, who must consider society‟s well-being in one‟s engagement. Sustainingthis link between oneself and a generalized notion of a Big Other, janata, goes„against the grain‟ of everyday social exchange in Nepal. The idiom of sacrifice is a wayfor cadres (and their leaders) to make sense of this position because it is a recognizedidiom that brings into view a different modality of being with new ways of evaluatingself and social worth.It is along these lines that cadres reinterpret their experiences of navigation. Thecontinuous adjustments and looking out for opportunities that they were forced to complywith as laborers was experienced as a kind of „stuckedness‟ that had little agentivepotentiality. By contrast, in becoming cadres, they regain their ability to act on theworld although this engagement is scripted so that it involves a struggle against the verystructures that circumscribed their being as laborers. It is, in crucial ways, in order to setthemselves free from what they were and the entire system that made such social relationspossible that cadres turn to politics. The shift of perspective to Maoist cadreshiptherefore involves a critical reappraisal of a type of navigation that leads to social ruinand instead embraces a mode of being where one is not occupied with navigating positionsbut with building a new identity. The actual work of transforming people into cadresmay start with conversations on the role of youth and laborers in Nepali society butit is only in becoming whole-timers and moving into the camps that cadres actively en-102


M O B I L I Z E D T O C L A S S S T R U G G L Egage with the revolutionary identity of the sacrificing Maoist subject, and it is to thisdiscussion that I now turn.103


3 SUBMITTING TO CAMP LIFEMany come here and say they can live under the party hierarchy and thatthey are really motivated but eventually they leave as they are not willing tosacrifice themselves. That's why, these days, we are being selective aboutwho we give membership to, it is not attained easily. It is important thatpeople do what they are good at and give themselves to their work, just likethis worker here [pointing to an old worker who is laying cement in theyard]; he is a good worker and is engaged in that. Similarly, people whocome here should be investing themselves in the party. We don‟t give membershipto everyone who comes here. We select on the basis of certain criteria.We look at their family backgrounds. Also we go through the individualpersonality. We check what kind of person he really is.- Nischal, second-in-command in the Nayabasti CampFor Nischal, who control and evaluate people‟s eligibility for membership, withoutsubmitting to the logic of cadreship as a personal sacrifice, one cannot succeed as a cadreand will just be wasting everyone‟s time and energy. While local young people thatfit YCL‟s profile are recruited by educating them about the Maoist class ideology, asdiscussed in the previous chapter, once they approach the camp to become members,they are treated with reservation and have to prove themselves worthy of membership.Before being allowed into the YCL and into Nayabasti, potential recruits therefore sitfor an interview where they are warned of the hardships that come with their lives ascadres and asked if they are really ready to commit to such unfavorable circumstances.The essence of cadreship, as shown in Chapter 2, is captured by the idiom of balidan,sacrifice. It is the notion repeatedly invoked by leaders and lay members alikewhen explaining their own motivation for joining, and it is the reason offered when reflectingon those who quit. People who stay on to become cadres understand that theymust sacrifice themselves, while those who fail to do so eventually also fail as cadres.Sacrifice is the fault line between the successful and the unsuccessful cadre, the conceptualidiom through which sincerity and loyalty to the movement is framed.


S U B M I T T I N G T O C A M P L I F EIn this chapter, I examine the cultural logic of this link between mobilization andsacrifice through an exploration of how newcomers are integrated into the YCL and theMaoist community. I will use the notion of submission to frame this discussion sincethis captures well the kind of relationships junior cadres are expected to become engulfedin, but, contrary to the perception of relations of subordination in Nepali societyas being fatalistic (Bista 1991) or repressive (Cameron 1998), I show how this leads to aspecific empowerment of the Maoist subject. Submission, as I use it here, does nottherefore so much describe processes of stratification but rather designates a „resubjectivization‟of people into the cultural framework of the CPN-M organization andcadres‟ active efforts at fitting in. Submission means, first and foremost, a willingness toengage in novel ways with the cadre community and to find, and dedicate oneself to, ameaningful role in relation to other members. In this process, relations of hierarchy andequality are not opposed but coexist and even reinforce each other, thereby turning thesubmission Nischal epitomized as „living under the party hierarchy‟ into a rather morecomplex arrangement than the expression at first glance suggests. This perspective onsubmission grows out of the concepts of compulsion (badhetta) and struggle (sangarshan)that I analyzed as framing mobilization because it is through such understandingsof a decision to become maobadi that relations of submission are made possible,since they signify and offer particular subject-positions.By focusing on processes of submission, I am interested in exploring the changes insocial relationships that followed when young laborers became cadres, and to connectthis discussion with the understanding of cadreship as a sacrifice. Returning to the quoteabove, why was it that cadres could not be successful in „living here‟ unless they committedthemselves to the party? What was so characteristic about living in Nayabastiand becoming a member that it required newcomers to yield, so to speak, to its mode ofoperation? In zooming in on these processes of submission, we gain an understanding ofwhat it meant for my interlocutors to become Maoist cadres and how newcomers weretaught to fit into a different vision of self and society through the idiom and embodimentof sacrifice.By following the young laborers and migrants as they moved into the camp, I explorehow novices were assigned roles and responsibilities within an organizationalframework that emphasized the importance of military-like obedience to one‟s commander,while at the same time providing a pedagogical space for learning and advancingin relations of apprenticeship. Alongside a formalized hierarchical structure, a cultureof respectful interaction and mutuality therefore existed that was based on ideas ofsameness and equality between all cadres irrespective of their position and captured inthe oft-repeated exclamation „we live here together as brothers and sisters‟. I argue that105


C H A P T E R 3through a dynamic between expressions of hierarchy and equality, a culture of sacrificewas made possible, whereby a Maoist social order could be regenerated through individual,low-level cadres‟ participation. In this way, cadres‟ ability to „live under the party‟and invest in their new roles and take their work seriously, as Nischal suggested theyshould do, became a prerogative for staying in the camp and therefore for developing acadre subjectivity expressed through a personal sacrifice. Submission describes athreshold that cadres had to pass over when joining the YCL and it was this process, Iargue, that prepared laborers for a life and an identity as cadres in the CPN-M.The chapter is divided into five sections: I first provide a short description of theNayabasti camp with its layout and social organization, starting with my own way intothe field; next, I explore how newcomers were required to submit themselves unconditionallyto the party hierarchy by obeying their commanders, and how this duty expresseda militarized logic of revolutionary power; in the third section, I analyze commanders‟roles as instructors and cadre‟s position as apprentices within the camp communityand the way they build on Nepali models of respect and mutuality in relationsbetween kin; the fourth section explores cadres‟ ability to criticize and disobey leadersthrough a consideration of how cadres perceived their position within the wider partystructure; and the fifth and last section extends the discussion on equality by exploringhow cadres link their experiences of submission to understandings of sacrifice and theidea of „the people‟, janata. Proceeding through these different aspects of cadres‟ submission– from obedience via apprenticeship to disobedience and ending up with cadres‟relationship with the notion of janata – the chapter connects junior members‟ experiencesof hierarchy and equality with the development of cadres as revolutionarysubjects.NAYABASTI CAMPFrom the busy junction on the Ring Road, one takes the road leading east away fromKathmandu city center, and past the stores offering delicious momos, colorful garments,and small electronic supplies. The asphalt is potholed and the traffic noisy and chaotic.On the left a discreet wall with a guarded entrance reveals little of the luxury resort inside,with lush gardens and a calm atmosphere in stark contrast to the rest of the city'sbustle. Onwards downhill the immediate hectic nature of the inner city recedes, allowingtrucks and buses to pick up speed as they ply forward on their own curious missions.After the last peripheral tourist spot here on the edge of Kathmandu, the dazzling andmajestic Buddhist Stupa of Boudhanath, one takes a right turn remaining for a littlewhile on a paved street. The pounding noise of truck and bus horns has been exchanged106


S U B M I T T I N G T O C A M P L I F Efor school children's laughter and the intruding sound of bike engines, now suddenly sodominating. A little further on, the two-three story concrete houses become scattered,revealing low-lying shacks along the road where men construct beds and chairs for thelocal market.To reach the YCL camp, one continues to the next junction, and turns right again,further away from the businesses of the road. The street has shed its tarp surface, releasingthe dust of the dry ground. A small truck climbs up from below, tilting dangerouslyover the side as its front wheel dips into one of the knee-deep crevices. Passing the lastfruit stall where I used to buy snacks for my friends in the camp, the street carries ondownward gently curving from one side to the other, until one loses direction of the cityone is leaving behind. More than once, I have found myself on a different street than Iexpected, getting lost in the maize of increasingly smaller and narrower paths, and occasionallyending up on the narrow edge that separates two green fields; for here on theedge of town, fields still appear in the interstices of the urban landscape.The last street, now more a path because it cannot accommodate motorized vehiclesapart from 'two-wheelers', runs along a tall wall that reveals the characteristic sound of aschool ground behind it. Buildings are fewer and further apart but relatively larger andmore newly built. The fields here, close to the Bagmati river – still relatively unsoiledby its passage through the Pashupatinath temple and the rest of the city – are swiftlybeing transformed into a suburban landscape as Kathmandu continues its sprawling expansionover the valley floor. Houses are quickly started but slowly finished, as the rawstructure of a potential second or third floor is left protruding from the roof and a pinkpaintedfront contrasts with the grey concrete of its remaining three sides.Here, on the edge of town, and yet in the residential center of the lower parts of theJorpati neighborhood lies the Nayabasti camp, an unobtrusive two-story house in fadedcolors that functions as a living quarters, office and training facility for the Maoistwhole-timers in the YCL. From the leaders' perspective, camps such as these have twooverall purposes: they train newcomers to become cadres, and they function as a mobilizationunit that can be activated at short notice. In addition, senior members have diverseparty assignments in the Jorpati area, such as meeting up with other party members,arranging local events, and coordinating the large network of volunteers who areonly part-time activists. Nayabasti therefore comprises an important unit in the organizationalset-up, and represents the YCL's local Area Office, of which there are 15 inKathmandu Valley. The camp's daily leader, Pradeep, was thus also the YCL In-Chargeof the entire administrative area, known as „Constituency No. 3‟.There was nothing to suggest that the house comprised a CPN-M cadre station;there were no signs on its doors, no characteristic red Maoist party flag with its large107


C H A P T E R 3white hammer and sickle, and no fence or gate to shut if off from the neighborhood surroundings.In fact, Nayabasti occupied one half of a double house, sharing a balconywith the neighboring family who had a small shop facing the street, and cadres oftenhung out outside the building or on the school ground across the road, which became thecenter of afternoon volleyball matches with other young people from the area during thedry season.The inside of Nayabasti (see Appendix 4) was also hardly distinguishable from aresidential building, maybe with the exception that it was very sparsely furnished andthat two of its rooms were padlocked – the food storage room on the ground floor andPradeep‟s private room on the first floor. The roof served as kitchen and common area,which is not uncommon in a Nepalese context, and the largest room on the ground floorwas converted into a TV room but also doubled as sleeping quarters for the camp‟s seniorleaders just below Pradeep in the hierarchy. Four of the remaining five rooms (therewere four on each floor, totaling eight) served as shared rooms for the junior cadres withone being exclusively for the camp‟s three women. This was one of the few instances inwhich gender segregation was visible in the CPN-M.The spatial layout of Nayabasti – later carried on to the new camp when it was relocatedin July – was thus expressive of central values connected with the camp; that itwas khula,„open‟ to the outside community, a message that was underlined by the factthat the doors to the house stayed open throughout the day, and that guests came andwent as they pleased without knocking on doors or asking permission; that it was aplace of collectivity whereby the household space was shared among its members so asto invite communal relations and, even if some doors were often locked, this was toprevent theft and there were no limits on the cadres‟ mobility inside the house; and, lastly,that despite being shared, the house was divided between members and functionality,as expressive of a social organization that drew distinctions between the rank and role ofcadres.It is this latter aspect that I focus on in the next section, which explores how obediencewas seen as a duty because it expressed a military principle of struggle and howthe organization into sections was central to institutionalizing this value in the relationshipsbetween commanders and ordinary cadres. Thus, as I am going to argue, the primaryfunction of the camp‟s military organization was not to mobilize cadres to act inthe world outside the camp but instead to teach them what it meant submit to the hierarchicalculture of a revolutionary party. The camp was a training facility, a place whereaspiring members could learn the skills needed for practicing revolutionaries.108


S U B M I T T I N G T O C A M P L I F EA MILITARY COMMAND SYSTEMWhen I first arrived in February, there were almost 30 cadres living there, the majorityof whom had joined after the Maoists had come above ground, reflecting the YCL‟sdrive to mobilize a new urban pool of activists. Nonetheless, eight members had longerhistories in the movement, starting with Nischal as the second In-Charge who had comeon board in the 1980s when the CPN-M was known as the moto masal (see Chapter 1)all the way up to Santosh who had become active during the Jana Andolan II in April2006 and had incurred a limp after being shot in the leg during the protests. Several hadbeen active in one of CPN-M‟s sister organizations during the People‟s War, such asMarut who had been a part-time member of the Tamang Mukti Morcha (an armed ethnicfront), although two of the senior members heralded directly from the People‟s LiberationArmy (PLA): one of them was Pradeep who had been a PLA commander andwas the camp‟s In-Charge despite Nischal‟s clear seniority in age and membership, andthe other was Ganesh who, at the age of 24, was by far the youngest of the experiencedcadres. There was thus a wide breadth of organizational expertise and historical legacyrepresented in Nayabasti‟s senior members despite the large influx of new post-conflictcadres.At the heart of member differentiation in Nayabasti was the organization of cadresinto different sections. Nayabasti‟s members were organizationally divided betweenjunior and senior members in a structure I shall refer to as the sectional hierarchy becausesections made up the core units of the camp. Newcomers were immediately putinto sections that were meant to emulate the military squads during the People‟s War, 1and as they were seen to be self-reliant and fully operable on their own, they contained aformalized division of roles. At top stood the Section Commander (SC), then a ViceCommander (VC), and, finally there was the more curious category of the FGL, whowere seen as the „fighters‟ of the group and whose primary responsibility was to „motivate‟the other members. 2 Each section had between six to eight members and until thecamp‟s relocation in July 2009, Nayabasti had three sections called simply Section A,1 A section was ideally seen to form a group of 7-8 cadres, which is less than the 11-12 stipulatedfor a Squad in the People‟s War and this may reflect the changed circumstances of the workthey carried out. Accordingly, there were 3 sections in Nayabasti throughout the first half of2009 when it still had a strong cadre-base, but this was reduced two after the relocation of thecamp in July.2 None of the cadres could explain what FGL stood for. According to retired Brigadier-GeneralSam Cowan who has worked with and researched both the PLA and the Nepali Army the acronymFGL might derive from the military term Fighter Group Leader, but he confessed that henever heard it used in the Nepali context (personal conversation). This reading fits the interpretationprovided by the camp members of the FGL as one who is keeping junior recruits on theirtoes, but I have not been able to locate its usage within the history of the movement.109


C H A P T E R 3Section B and Section C, respectively. In the spatial layout of the camp (Appendix 4)each section had their own Section Rooms where they kept their personal belongings,slept, studied and held meetings. Despite the gender segregation of sleeping quarters,the women in the camp were part of the sectional hierarchy although they all belongedto the same section. Figures 3 and 4 illustrate the distribution of cadres between sectionsand commander positions before and after the camp‟s relocation (Appendix 5).Above and beyond the section structure were the more experienced members butunlike with sections, they were not internally ranked so that, apart from Pradeep as theoverall In-Charge, there were no formal hierarchical distinctions between the middlelayer of leaders within the camp. The reason for this was that the middle leaders heldpositions in the CPN-M‟s committee structure in the local area, and while they were allanswerable to Pradeep, they were not organized under him as were the section cadresbut were part of the party‟s general hierarchical structure as outlined in Chapter 1. Sections,by contrast, were internal to the camp and had no direct relation to the party organization;they were as such „invisible‟ from the outside. Whereas positions within theparty were decided at the appropriate committee level, cadres‟ section membership wasexclusively Pradeep‟s decision. This effectively sliced the camp in two: those who werepart of the strictly internal system – and who were almost without exception cadres whohad joined after the war – and then the smaller groups of senior members. The camp‟slayout confirmed this differentiation. Only section cadres and Pradeep had fixed places;the remaining members had to scramble around for a place to sleep. Figure 2 (Appendix5) shows the basic components of this organization and the opaque position of the middleleaders.The differentiation between junior and senior members was therefore instituted on aprofound level between those who belonged primarily to the camp (organization), andthose who were positioned principally within the party (organization). This distinction isimportant when considering how cadres were taught to relate to each other, and I nowturn to a description of the basic relationship between ordinary cadres and their commanders.Sections were not simply convenient instruments for organizing newcomers in aprincipled fashion. As core units of whole-timer membership, they served to teach cadresthe virtues of obeying a military command structure. Newcomer cadres wereplaced in one of Nayabasti‟s sections and told that their principal duty was to obey theirsection commanders and accept, or „live under‟, the party hierarchy. The emphasis onobeying one‟s commander was profound and constituted a ground rule for membershipin the activist community. The cadre Rohit, whom we met in Chapter 2, gave a simpleand powerful script for obeying when asked about the criteria for joining, himself a110


S U B M I T T I N G T O C A M P L I F EVice Commander at the time: „He is the leader, he gives a command, and we say “yes,yes”‟. Cadres referred to this obligation in a variety of ways, some using direct referencesto an organizational hierarchy, taha, or by employing words for obedience, manuor ajnapalan, while others used metaphors to underline their readiness to serve the party.Among the latter examples, the expression „wherever the party commands me, I willgo‟ was regularly used when we conversed about work, meaning that what was importanthere was the cadres‟ ability to respond to commands, rather than the specificnature of their assignment. The requirement for cadres to obey their commanders wasinterwoven with the sectional structure and was therefore a profound characteristic ofhow cadres spent their initial period in the camp; more than simply an empty value, itconstituted the first „test‟ of potential cadres and was, as Nischal clearly attested to inthe introductory quote, a significant worry for the YCL‟s leaders: whether or not cadreswere in fact sincere about and able to „invest themselves in the party‟ by submitting tothe „party hierarchy‟.Relationships of subordination within the sections were a way of training cadres inthis essential quality of CPN-M members. While the middle leaders, as explained, occupiedan undifferentiated position between Pradeep and the sections, the internal differentiationwithin the sections was pronounced such that orders from above had to passthrough the appropriate levels, starting with the SC, via the VC, and then to the FGLwho communicated orders to common cadres. The obverse was also true. Ordinary sectioncadres‟ requests to leave the camp, switch duties with someone else or be excusedfrom an assignment had to follow the same channels of communication through the internalstratum of the camp hierarchy. This system of commands replayed the YCL‟s linkto the PLA and its army culture and was regularly evoked as the model of how to behavein Nayabasti: „Remember this is the army‟, as Pradeep and aspiring commanderssuch as Rohit were fond of saying.Despite the communal nature of living, which made this formalized information exchangesuperfluous from a practical point of view, cadres were thus still required toabide by the layered lines of communication befitting a military institution. It meant thatthe most basic unit of their party affiliation was, from the beginning, deeply hierarchizedwhen it came to taking and giving orders, thus institutionalizing the system ofcommands that formed organizational relations. This role of the sections in discipliningnewcomers was all the more evident when compared to the looser hierarchy among allthe members above and outside the sections, as they could freely give orders to the differentsections and were only answerable to Pradeep. Section cadres, for instance, tookpride in reporting their command titles to me and were eager to let me know when theyhad advanced in the hierarchy but the middle leaders used no such references to their111


C H A P T E R 3own status as leaders. The formalization of party roles did not therefore become morepronounced as cadres advanced in the hierarchy but was on the contrary most extreme atthe very bottom of the organizational pyramid. In this sense, sections became an exercisein „living under the hierarchy‟, and for newcomer cadres this took the overridingform of unconditional obedience.The segmented system underlined for cadres the fact that the work they were doingwas not just the result of random decisions from erratic leaders, but of logical ordersfrom mathi, above. The conceptual pair mathi-talla (high-low or above-below) was themost common way of invoking the party hierarchy, and it highlighted the mutual interdependenceof the different organizational levels. To obey was thus expressive of one‟sfunctional integration into the party and was spoken of by the more erudite as a „dialectical‟relation between „the upper and the lower body‟. One was therefore not simply atthe bottom of a vast hierarchy; one was in a productive relationship with mathi, one thattook the form of obedience. The militarized system of commands taught cadres the virtueof clear lines of communication and was regarded as a unique feature of CPN-Mactivism, signaling the close integration between the strategies contemplated by leadersfar away and the specific work each unit had to engage in. It was also what defined theYCL as a revolutionary party: „When we work as revolutionaries,‟ I was told, „we haveto work under a hierarchy; we need leaders to organize us.‟ 3In the YCL‟s own campaigning, leaders have highlighted how their goal is to „givemilitary consciousness to youth‟ (Tamang 2009) and the organization sees itself as amilitant youth movement. This is how one of the regional leaders described it in an internalparty magazine:This is an organization of organized youth heading towards a progressivedirection (pragatisil path) […] It will continuously march in the path ofrevolution by adopting the „Force Theory‟ for the emancipation of the proletariatclass and is committed to fight in favor of peasants, tenants, laborersand the common people […] YCL is a catalyst for radical change, a disciplinedorganization which is purely and originally democratic […it is] an3 Such a formulation recalls Mao‟s analysis of revolutionary politics as a special aspiration ofmilitary values. Though Mao was not the first to utilize the vocabulary of warfare when contemplatingthe parameters of revolutionary struggle, his rereading of the military strategist SunTzu has been essential in forming his thoughts on Protracted People‟s War in China, and haveresulted in a number of detailed essays. In „Problems of War and Strategy‟ from 1938, it is declaredthat:„Communists do not fight for personal military power […] but they must fight formilitary power for the Party, for military power for the people.‟What is „military power‟? It is a principal strategy when engaging in class struggle, and Maowarns that when there is „naivety on the question of military power, nothing whatsoever can beachieved‟ (ibid.).112


S U B M I T T I N G T O C A M P L I F Earmy of the 21st century but this army is an army without uniform and […]it will function by staying among the people but not on the barracks.(Magar2008).While the YCL is an „army‟, a „disciplined organization‟, and adopts a „Force Theory‟,it sees itself as a modern army „without uniform‟ and, by extension, without guns.It is therefore not war in a conventional sense that is the goal of this militarization. Rather,the military references to its organization points instead to a principle of revolutionarystruggle: it is a form that struggle takes, as Mao explained in his famous dictumthat „war is the main form of struggle and the army the main form of organization‟ (Mao1938), and is inscribed into the way the organization works. It is in this sense that theYCL is a „political organization based on military characteristics‟, as one leader explained(Tamang 2009).Pradeep, Nayabasti‟s In-Charge, explained the complexity of this process as he sawit. The YCL, he told me, should be thought of as existing simultaneously in four differentforms: as social service providers (sewa), as an organization (sangathan), as amovement (andolan) and as creating publicity (pracha pasar). This model links efficiencyin carrying out the party‟s programs with creating awareness about the ongoingstruggle, while attending to the social work that the Maoist movement has tirelesslychampioned for. But andolan, I was told, is a more complicated notion and can takethree different forms according to the circumstances. It can be peaceful, strong or turninto an armed struggle, and this does not express a change in the organization or itsgoals, it is merely a matter of applying the necessary force to be the „social service providers‟they are committed to being. Unlike sangathan, which had to abide by militarycharacteristics to be efficient, andolan, in this model, was merely a lever; the form ofandolan might change but the requirement of organization, of military power that is,was an unbreakable principle. The YCL‟s image and organizational structure as an „army‟encapsulated it‟s ability to be an efficient and disciplined organization that couldimplement the party‟s policies directly and swiftly. 44 Slavoj Zizek has written about the relationship between revolutionary organization and itsgoals and calls it – somewhat provocatively – „revolutionary terror‟. It accounts for a positionthat combines belief with resoluteness. The „terror‟ resides in being loyal to the idea and relentlessin implementing it: „Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice. It is thereforean emanation of virtue‟ (Robespierre in Zizek 2008:159). According to Zizek, where promisingrevolutionary events failed – such as The Cultural Revolution in China – this was not a failureon the level of practice (that they were too „ruthless‟) but on the level of allegiance to the idea;they were not radical enough and degenerated into a „reactionary‟ form. In the case of China,Mao‟s use of the army to suppress the Shanghai Commune is understood by Zizek as the ultimatefailure of the Cultural Revolution and not its Idea as such.The focus is thus not on military organization per se but on how it can be wielded to accomplisha long-term goal. In her analysis of Maoist terror during the People's War, Lecomte-113


C H A P T E R 3What this means for our present purposes is that it was not simply that YCL cadreshad to become soldiers – as was the case with their PLA predecessors – but that in theprocess of becoming revolutionaries, they should internalize the perspective of the soldieras a way of relating to the organization and each other. „Military consciousness‟points to this basic allegiance between cadres and the general struggle: it should becomea way of seeing one‟s own engagement. It therefore directly concerned cadres‟ sacrificebecause their commitment to the fight against injustice had to conform to the militaryform. To give oneself to the movement and its agenda implied becoming its soldiers, buta soldier of the revolution was something quite different from a contracted soldier performinga duty; it was, as we saw in Chapter 2, based on an idea of compulsion (badhetta)whereby an obligation to serve the party and the people followed from a class analysisof society.Writing on the concept of sacrifice among PLA cadres, Marie Lecomte-Tilouinehas expressed this process of internalization well. Similar to the YCL cadres who arealso just „ordinary‟ youth, PLA soldiers were not exemplary figures of military prowessand could therefore not draw on traditional idioms of heroism and physical strength. Insteadof special military skills and sophisticated equipment, they had to turn their entirebodies into terrible and explosive weapons, ones forged, as Lecomte-Tilouine writes, „inanger and set in iron‟, thereby turning „themselves [into] the human weapons of theapocalypse‟ (Lecomte-Tilouine 2006:59). In other words, if they obey because theymust, it is only because this is a way of sharpening themselves as a weapon. „Must‟ ishere not external to the „compulsion‟ of becoming a revolutionary but part of this veryprocess.We can think of cadres‟ insistence on obeying the party hierarchy as an expressionof this military principle of revolutionary struggle and a revolutionary organization. Themilitarization of camp life was part of this ethic: a military language was used to designatenot only different roles but other areas of camp life as well. The kitchen was accordinglycalled the „mess‟ and those who cooked had „mess duty‟. A guard was alsokept during the nights and when everyone was away for programs. These were called„sentries‟ – another military term. Everyday life in the camp also imitated an army set-Tilouine highlights the strategic use of 'red terror' as a tool to combat the repressive 'white terror'of the state (Lecomte-Tilouine 2009a). In contrast to 'state terror', 'red terror' is calculated andprecise. In Chairman Prachanda's own words: 'It should be strictly expressed in both our policyand practice that red terror does not mean anarchy' (ibid.: 386). „Terror‟ is therefore not thename for militaryness but the name of the revolutionary process, which, of course, must rely onan efficient and transparent form of organization to become a force. The military principle issimply the shortest (and necessary) distance from contemplation to action. This is why YCLmust first of all be an „army‟ – an efficient and disciplined organization that can implement partydirectives without fuss.114


S U B M I T T I N G T O C A M P L I F Eup: sections had specific duties that rotated on a fixed schedule; the whole camp rosetogether between 5 and 6 am; it was kept orderly and clean; and there were rules againstunsolicited behavior. Camp life was meant to be disciplined, to have „military characteristics‟,and here the sections and the commander-cadre relationship were crucial.The use of the name „commander‟ in English for the position of authority withinsections linked into this. The vice and section commanders were neither neta (leaders),In-Charge, or dais (seniors) as the terms variously used to designate mathi members, butwere always referred to as commanders or by their acronyms VC and SC, respectively(the FGL was not seen as a commander position as I will explain below); hence „mycommander‟, „your SC‟ and so on was how cadres would talk about the section structure.Retaining the word commander for these low-level leaders and restricting the useof proper leadership titles to those who stood above the section structure reinforced thede facto difference in power and position between the two groups of members, and thusunderscored the fact that sections existed as a shadow organization. But it also playedon the division between political commissars and military commanders instituted duringthe People‟s War, which designated the first as the party strategists and the latter as itstactical arm, the site of action. We see, then, that the division which defines the YCL asthe military wing of the party and which is institutionalized in a bifurcated leadershipstructure, as explained in Chapter 1, is replicated on each level of the organization: onthe level of the camp, Pradeep represents the „commander‟ – a notion he himself invoked– with respect to the YCL leadership who instruct him of the party line; and withinthe camp, it is the sections that are the commanding unit in relation to the other leadersabove, who embody the role of commissars by representing the party line. To be acommander in the CPN-M is hence to be subordinate to an entire party structure by virtueof being its (blunt) instrument.The operation of the section structures, with its command hierarchy and differentialpositions, thus attests to a strong organizational culture that blends histories and valuesof military prowess with requirements for obedience and integrates this into the commander-cadrerelationship. Obedience carries with it a wide set of ideas about what itmeans to be a Maoist cadre and, more than simply designating an unconditional requirementof fitting in, it offers ways of falling in line with the party organization andthe requirements of cadre life. Cadres become activated, so to speak, through their abilityto submit themselves to this command structure. In this way, already in obeying wecan see an element of the empowerment that cadreship involves. We would therefore beat fault, as I am going to argue in the next section, if we were to see in relations of superordinationa system of pacification that strips cadres of agency; it is rather that it is115


C H A P T E R 3molded into an agency of a specific kind through a re-subjectivization of people as cadresthrough relations of apprenticeship.COMMANDERS AS INSTRUCTORS AND CADRES ASAPPRENTICESObedience, we have seen, was a virtue, indeed a compulsion (badhetta) and necessity,because it defined Maoist cadres as dedicated to a long-term and radical (class) struggle(sangarsha), opposed for instance to cadres of rival youth organizations – the Tarun Daland Youth Force – who were „opportunists‟ and „undisciplined‟, using their party platformsto pursue personal goals. The tight organizational structure was a shield againstsuch random politics. From the perspective of ordinary cadres this meant that without anorder, one had to remain inactive. This sense of subordination as an order which onewaits for is captured in a short exchange I had with Nihar, one of the new section cadres:Dan: „It seems to me that you are spending your days idly here...‟Nihar: „I am here today because the commander has ordered me.‟Dan: „I mean all of you here. For a long time you haven't had a lot of work.‟Nihar: „It's not like that, as if we don't do anything. But we function onlywhen the party commands or orders us. And if it doesn't order us we juststay here reading and writing.‟It is as if it is the command which makes something – the cadre – function, and, withoutit, the cadre is immobilized. The positive identification with a military discipline results,therefore, in a sort of deliberate pacification. But how was this „pacification‟ channeledinto a model for activism through which cadres could recognize themselves as contributingto a wider social and political struggle?Cadres‟ participation in different activities involved them in different relationshipsof submission. Rohit, for instance, was one of the experienced cadres and had been amember for two years. He had advanced to become a Vice Commander (VC) of sectionC in March and this placed him between commanding his section and fulfilling the obligationsthat his Section Commander (SC) and the remaining leaders in the camp placedon him and his section. Shortly after ascending to VC status, his section worked as volunteersat the national stadium during an international football cup, and, for several daysin a row, they would attend the games. Rohit‟s role, however, shifted many times in thisprocess, depending on who else was going and what their specific assignment for theday was. If his SC was coming, Rohit did not have to command the section and wouldbe put in a position similar to the other cadres, but there might also be leaders above116


S U B M I T T I N G T O C A M P L I F Esection level attending, and they could take over the command, even if he had originallybeen given the responsibility of leading his section on that day. Sometimes, a SC fromanother section would command Rohit and his section.There would always be several layers of leaders above cadres that could reorganizethe command structure to fit with a given situation and even the section structure wasregularly broken up to accommodate other principles; thus the physically strong cadresfrom different sections could be assembled for the kind of work which required endurancewhile weaker ones could be sent to dance lessons in preparation for an upcomingcultural program. At the stadium, cadres were assigned to a variety of tasks on differentdays, from checking tickets to patrolling the gates for trespassers, to sitting in perfectlyempty areas of the stadium in case any spectators needed assistance. Cadres were thusbeing activated not simply under one single line of command but by being handed specificresponsibilities by different leaders according to the kind of work they engaged in.While regular section cadres were always in a position of being commanded, participatingin different activities increasingly involved commanders in constant shifts betweenreceiving instructions or orders and passing them on to others. It shows how cadres,more than simply instruments to command, were being activated to carry out differentduties and hence given the chance to develop their skills. The distribution of whogave and who received commands was, in other words, not entirely fixed but varied accordingto the circumstances, and this became a way of leveling out sectional hierarchiesand focusing on expertise and cooperation. This was in fact, I would claim, a crucialfunction of the hierarchical relations between members; that they institutionalizedthe guidance of novices. Talking about his own experience, Rohit for instance explained:Of course, there is a hierarchy. But that does not mean a distinction betweeninferior and superior. Pravir‟s [Rohit‟s Section Commander] role, forinstance, is to teach me but he never tells me that or directly lectures me. Instead,he has asked me to do his work and I used to do that and even I couldgive him advice about the work, and he would ask for my suggestions andhelp as well. Outside, it is not like this but here there is flexibility. Pravir isolder than me and he has that position [as SC] which is also based on ideasand education but it doesn't mean a distinction between superior and inferior.We focus on team-work and the party does not get in the way of our abilities.Words such as „team-work‟ and „flexibility‟ bring out an aspect of cadreship thatsees positional advancement as a reflection of one‟s activist experience and this was underlinedby the sectional structure, particularly in the role of the Force Group Leader,the FGL. The FGL was the lowest command position in the section, and his or her du-117


C H A P T E R 3ties were similar to those of his/her superordinate comrades only less significant; theywere given the role of slogan leaders during processions; talking with local party membersand „motivating‟ them; occasionally chairing the section meetings, and more systematicallyacting as go-betweens when passing orders from mathi to talla and vice versa.So Kamal, who acknowledged having to ask the advice of the leaders if a task was„costly or complex‟ explained that he had only ever asked his FGL – Suraj in this case –who would then „disseminate it, like a postman, to the commander‟. Cadres understoodthe FGL as the „fighter‟ in their section and the first position that allowed a cadre tocommand others. It also gave access directly to the SC without consulting the VC. Ratheroptimistically, this had led Suraj to declare while he was still an FGL, that „as anFGL I am the commander of all the members of my section‟, downplaying that he wasfirst and foremost a link between the real commanders and the regular cadres. But forcadres who had so far only been at the receiving end of orders, it was naturally exhilaratingto be able also to issue them. The new FGL after Suraj, Himal – an 18 year oldTamang and probably one of the most optimistic people I met during my fieldwork –understood that, as an FGL, he was a kind of intermediary. He explained:My role is to make the people work on a fixed time, to disseminate the divisionof labor. For instance, right now, the SC is Rohit and VC is Suraj. Surajdirects me, and I have to follow his direction and I have to disseminatehis directions – either by doing it myself or asking the other members.Basically, as an FGL, Himal became part of the chain of command whereby he both hadto take directions from above and figure out what to do with them: how to „disseminate‟them and make his comrades „work on a fixed time‟. This position was well encapsulatedby the In-Charge Pradeep. He told me that the FGL was a cadre who showed the potentialto become a commander and that it was specifically a position for those whowere „training‟ to advance in the section hierarchy.From this perspective, sections should then be understood as small units or teamsthat educated the cadres in Maoist activism, and its hierarchy was a strategy for accomplishingthis integration of newcomers into the corpus of cadres. The process can berendered clearer by seeing it as a type of apprenticeship. According to Merriam-Webster, apprenticeship means being „bound by indenture to serve another for a prescribedperiod with a view to learning an art or trade‟ and it indicates „learning by practicalexperience‟. Michael Herzfeld has written a fascinating account of craftsmen andtheir apprentices in Crete that expands this understanding considerably (Herzfeld 2003).He has shown how the relation between master and apprentice does not involve directteaching but the master busying the apprentice with tedious and strenuous chores that118


S U B M I T T I N G T O C A M P L I F Ediscipline the body and build moral character. What is established in this form of apprenticeshipis thus not simply practical skills but a whole set of values and an accompanyingrange of micro-disciplines: how to appear bored and indifferent in order to„steal‟ the techniques of a better master, or how to feign obedience to high-paying customerswhile mocking them behind their back (Sutton 2006).The conditions for developing one‟s expertise in Nayabasti were reminiscent of thistype of apprenticeship. Cadres were constantly „on duty‟ in their new roles: now performinga menial daily task in the camp; now sitting in small groups and discussing thepolitical news of the day; going off to a local meeting with other cadres in the vicinity;and occasionally participating with their sections in public programs and parades. Thesenumerous small and large engagements never officially took the form of training. Therewere rare organized training sessions for cadres in which they were lectured about currentpolitical developments and these were the only situations that were understood as ateacher-student relationship. By contrast, it was in their daily lives that they received thebasic experience that would allow them one day to become Maoist commanders.The FGL, the one who is training to become a commander, as explained by Pradeep,was in effect the one who institutionalized this experience of apprenticeship. Itwas this position that indicated the leaders‟ acknowledgment of cadres‟ training andprepared them to take on leadership responsibilities. But the gamut of values and practicesthat cadres were being taught was much wider than the position of FGL suggested.By handling the more mundane daily washing of their clothes, or disciplining themselvesto receive commands, as well as by living according to the principles of communistrevolutionaries that prohibited „anti-social‟ behavior – discussions I will elaborateon in subsequent chapters – they were all apprentices of a wide-ranging system ofvalues and micro-practices. Experience was at the heart of sectional advancement, then,and commanders talked of their positions mainly in such terms. After becoming a VC inJune, Suraj told me:I have faced many situations. During protests, we have to face many differentkinds of people. Some are very stubborn, and those I really have to convincewithout aggression and I am good at that. And staying here, I think weshould improve ourselves through innovative work like strengthening one‟sideology.Along similar lines and in order to stress her seniority, Damini – the other Vice Commander– had told me that she felt old (buddhi) in the camp. „I have learned manythings,‟ she said, „about politics and about the party and to keep other people under mycommand.‟Sections were thus a way of formalizing the passage from newcomer to experienced.They institutionalized learning so that it both encompassed the essential lesson of119


C H A P T E R 3abiding by the party‟s command structure while providing cadres with their own networkwithin which to develop. From this perspective, the sections were training groundsand „classrooms‟ for new members. Outside these classrooms, their commanders hadlittle authority; the Section Commander could only decide on matters pertaining to cadres‟work and lives within the camp and, as soon as they were working outside, thesectional command structure was reduced to carrying out the camp leaders‟ orders. TheFGL position was the first position cadres held in which they learned the relationshipbetween commanding and commanded, and for both Suraj and Himal it had taken almostone year before they had advanced to this position. What the concept of apprenticeshippoints to, as also highlighted by Herzfeld, is the totality of this mode of learning;it leads not simply to a „craftsman‟ or a competent cadre but to a distinct, revolutionary,subject. 5It is now clear that the emphasis on the obedience of junior cadres was a way of institutionalizingjunior cadres‟ passage from inexperience to experience and depended ontwo distinct processes of submission, both embodied in one‟s commander: as a personto obey, and as person to learn from. In „submitting to sacrifice‟, however, cadres acquiescedto a great deal more than simply institutional procedures and skills training; theyassented to becoming different persons, and this involved rethinking relations of worthand responsibilities within complex social systems. To understand this process, I wantto reflect further upon the nature of this type of hierarchy, which is clearly not just aboutorganizing inequality, but rather about institutionalizing excellence – a process that infact relies on everyone being potentially equal.5 A similar argument could have been made by utilizing Goffman‟s concept of „total institutions‟as they are also seen as „forcing houses for changing persons‟ (Goffman 1961:12) and areespecially identifiable by mixing the various identities of persons – social, personal, professional– and subsuming them under one new overarching identity. The problem with this theoreticalframe is that it already assumes that this identity is a negative one; it is a very pessimistic readingof the social power of institutions and it would thus be at odds with the essential optimisticidentity that Maoist cadreship is experienced as. Goffman‟s idea of „total‟ is also of another varietythan how I use it here. While institutions are „total‟ in what identities, or roles, they allow,they are curiously flexible when it comes to what Goffman calls „secondary adjustments‟ – thetypes of behavior that underwrite official rules. The „totality‟ of Nayabasti concerned a mode ofliving where there were no place for unsanctioned practices whereas identities were, on the contrary,always in the process of being made and unmade and this could be openly narrated anddiscussed. The difference between the Goffmanian institution and Nayabasti rests on the crucialfact that cadres voluntarily entered into its domain and used it as a place for trying to becomesomething that they desired to be, and the challenges of this process were weighed and discussed.The problem was not the total power of the institution, as in Goffman's case, but cadres'struggle with filling out their roles as expected.120


S U B M I T T I N G T O C A M P L I F EBetween hierarchy and equalityWe can distinguish between two ways of conceptualizing hierarchy: distributing positionsvs. distributing status. In Dumont‟s influential analysis of the Hindu caste systemfrom 1970, the two overlap; i.e. a lower-class position is congruous with less purity andhence also of lower status because the purity-impurity distinction is an overall „ideological‟organizing principle (Dumont 1970). Separation is not just a formal act but a wayto keep harmful substances such as the impurity of meat-eaters from polluting the pure(vegetarians). The higher castes in such a system are simply more sacred than those belowthem, and identity is therefore endemic to one‟s caste position and hence to the self.Analyses of caste relations in Nepal highlight such an asymmetrical principle, which notonly concerns a social role but involves a differentiation of status (Gray 1995; Bennett1983). 6 Simply put, to have a lower (caste) position is to be inferior.It is against such a caste-based understanding of hierarchy that the CPN-M‟s partyhierarchy emerged as a different experience. On the one hand, it was „strict‟ and disciplinary,even „ontologically‟ certain. Nothing needed to be negotiated; one‟s positionwas given and this involved very real and everyday practices of subordination and superordination.On the other hand, the difference between newcomers and experiencedleaders was not seen as an essential difference of the people occupying these positions.For one, today‟s rookies would become tomorrow‟s leaders; this kind of mobility is inconceivablewithin a caste hierarchy. More fundamentally, however, there was a strongstress on the equality between positions such that, in spite of clear asymmetries in whomust submit to whom, everyone was seen as able to contribute with his or her experienceto the same cause. This basic equality was exemplified by Rohit‟s relation to hiscommander; it was not a „distinction between superior and inferior‟ which defined hierarchyin the camp but rather „flexibility‟ since all were in the process of learning, andeven junior cadres were said to be able to teach experienced members new things.In trying to understand how this works, we are helped here by a recent explorationof hierarchy in contemporary Nepal. In his examination of what it means to be a householderamong high-caste men in Kathmandu, John Gray argues that there are basicallytwo paradigms of hierarchy at play, one based on worship and one on respect, mannuparne (Gray 1995). It is the latter which is relevant for understanding the CPN-M hierarchyand it is based on relations between kin. Mannu parne literally means „having re-6 This is for instance Steven Parish‟s wager in his „hierarchy and its discontents‟ (Parish 1993).While social relations are effectively guided by asymmetries of worth between high and lowcasteNewars in Kathmandu, there is a concurrent and strong egalitarian discourse that challengesthis implication of caste hierarchies. But it remains a „politics of consciousness‟ and does notin effect map on to social relationships.121


C H A P T E R 3spect‟ and is a differentiation which operates between people who are already of thesame purity (in contradistinction to a hierarchy of worth similar to Dumont‟s rendition).This means that the asymmetry in mannu parne takes place against a basic equality betweenrelatives. Rank is expressed as authority and respect for superordinates, whilesubordinates display obedience and deference. Within a household, the primary criterionfor this differentiation is age: „elders‟ are superior to, have authority over, and deserverespect from „youth‟ (ibid.:70). This principle also divides siblings; older siblings, regardlessof gender, are seen to be superordinate with respect to younger ones, and one‟sposition in this hierarchy is identified linguistically by birth order titles: jetha/jethi is thefirst born, mahila/mahili the second born and so on. There is thus a duality inherent inthis form of hierarchy: it communicates both an experience of superordination and ofequality at the same time.The mannu parne hierarchical model throws light on how relationships were conceptualizedin Nayabasti. In addition to using formal titles, the relationship betweenleaders and cadres were specifically expressed in general Nepali kinship terms as relationsbetween junior and senior siblings. This was, in fact, the primary mode of reference,although only inside the camp, as cadres would use official titles, or the genericcommunist and English term „comrade‟ when in public. In vernacular kinship terminology,siblings are ranked according to birth order, and there are separate terms for olderand younger siblings. In daily parlance, cadres used these respectful but colloquialforms of address for their commanders and everyone above: dai for men and didi forwomen, while the leaders in turn used the corresponding bhai for younger brother andbahini for younger sister when addressing subordinates. A commander entering a roomwould for instance call on one of his cadres by saying „Bhai, come here.‟Relations between siblings, as explained by Gray, most clearly evoke a hierarchical-egalitarianexperience and are captured in the term daju-bhai. While essentiallydenoting a ranked pair – the daju (dai) deserving of respect and obedience from the bhai– this also refers to the leveling experience of being brothers and as such comes to standfor „brotherhood‟ (ibid.:90). To put this in structural terms, what made brothers (andsiblings in general) equal was their socially equivalent status with respect to the authorityof their father, and this introduced, as Gray explains, „derivative ideas of corporatenessand equality into the domestic experience of mannu parne‟ (ibid.:88). One‟s eldersiblings are therefore both worthy of respect and should be deferred to while beingequivalent to oneself as a brother or sister. This was regularly emphasized in the camp,particularly in relation to the female cadres, who had to be treated like sisters, and thegeneral idiom of cadre life was captured in the phrase „we live here together as brothersand sisters‟ (dauju ra bahini). Dais and didis were someone to ask advice of and, in122


S U B M I T T I N G T O C A M P L I F Eturn, one had to „obey their suggestions‟, as Kamal phrased it above, because it is howyounger siblings would pay respect to their elder ones. 7The expression of mannu parne relations in Nayabasti was not a way to diminishthe asymmetrical relations of the institutional hierarchy. It was Rohit who, just beforeexplaining about the „flexibility‟ of relations between himself and his commander, gavethe powerful script for obeying mentioned above: „He is the leader, he gives a command,and we say “yes, yes”.‟ Mannu parne relations in the camp did not deny the hierarchybetween positions, but provided, I would suggest, a frame for thinking about theessential equality of all members irrespective of their rank. It could therefore both containthe important hierarchical element of the organization (mathi-talla), which guaranteedits efficiency, while also communicating the spirit that all cadres were „brothersand sisters‟.It is, however, not enough to assume that cadres were equal with regard to purityand the subordination to their „fathers‟, as is the case in Gray‟s analysis. „Sameness‟ forcadres was based upon their participation in various aspects of party work, and it wasthrough their ability to fulfill their differing roles that their worth and status was evaluated;not as persons with asymmetrical qualities but as revolutionaries with differenttasks. It was therefore their positions, rather than their identities, which were unequal.Roles could thus contain movement in relation to how well cadres invested themselvesin the party and gained the experience that, for instance, Suraj and Damini recounted inthe passages cited earlier. Instead of conceptualizing this positionality as fixed withinthe hierarchical party structure, cadreship may be better understood as a role that candevelop – as a revolutionary „moral career‟, to borrow Goffman‟s term (1961:14).This moral equivalence between all members was evident in how cadres were expectedto behave with each other. Similar to Gray's case between kin, respect (mannu)between camp members was seen as very important. This meant that 'boastful' attitudeswere frowned upon. Cadres should rather be humble and accept that they played only atiny part in the broader party machinery; even top leaders were expected to display ageneral humbleness befitting a revolutionary's position as, ultimately, a mere servant ofthe people. What mattered here was not the rank one held, but how well one carried outone's duty. Members were consequently expected to relate to each other through the7 The dai-bhai or didi-bahini relations are very popular idioms for fictive kinship, at least inKathmandu, and with most of the locals I developed relations to, these terms of address werequickly institutionalized. But, curiously, I was referred to with the more formal „sir‟ (-ji) by thejunior cadres – possibly to mark me as an outsider – and by my name with the seniors, whichwas also a way to mark a distance. When the cadres wanted to stress that they were referring toa senior in a hierarchical relation, they sometimes used „mathi dai‟, meaning a senior high-upand the common way to talk about hierarchical relations would be through the linguistic pair„mathi-talla‟ meaning high-low (or above and below).123


C H A P T E R 3functions they occupied in the organization rather than through their individual attributes.All had specific duties tied to their roles, and it was their ability to properly performthese roles they were given that was to form the basis of evaluations. Followingthis ideal, leaders were therefore in no privileged position to mistreat their subordinatesand, despite the mathi-talla hierarchy of commands, abusive language between memberswas roundly criticized and something to be avoided.One of the lasting effects of such values was to turn relations between cadres intorelations between their different roles. This both affected interpersonal tensions andfriendship. Cadres were, for instance, highly critical of commanders who spontaneouslyscolded them and they would raise such issues during weekly section meetings; scoldingwas not a respectful way of behaving towards others who were merely trying to do theirjobs because, as Suraj explained to me, it left no option for negotiation; instead, commandersshould 'speak good things', in ways 'that can be negotiated'. Perhaps more surprisingly,however, cadres were also wary of considering each other as friends. As theSection Commander Ashmi succinctly put it: 'No, we are not friends here. We are allequal!' She thereby brought into focus the leveling experience of being related to othersthrough the same role as cadres, or comrades. 8 It was through their differing positions,denoting inequalities of experience, that the institution of apprenticeship became possiblein Nayabasti, but only because everyone was morally identical in their revolutionaryidentity as cadres.DISOBEYING LEADERSWhereas I have so far focused on the operations of sections and relations within thecamp, it is now necessary to take a step back and look at cadres‟ engagement in the partyon a more general level. In this second to last section, I explore how equality, in additionto expressing mutual respect and fostering a culture of apprenticeship in cadres‟relationship with each other, also worked as a principle of revolutionary struggle beyondthe commander-cadre relation.8 This is not to say that friendship did not develop among cadres, only that these were discursivelysilenced. Ashmi, for instance, was close to Damini though not to another female cadrewho left the camp during my time there. But such relations of affection and disaffection werenot used as the grounds for cohabitation and even less so for work-related cooperation. Strenuoussocial relations were for instance sought brought into the official procedures for regulatingcamp behavior and thereby made subject to the requirement of a functional integration of roles.In this, as is many other ways, the camp‟s space as a serious party unit was being underlined; itwas not a place to make friends but to make comrades.124


S U B M I T T I N G T O C A M P L I F EDue to the emphasis on roles and the many tasks tied to these, a culture of evaluationdeveloped in the camp and beyond that highlighted „weaknesses‟ in performingroles. During weekly meetings, cadres could rebuke each other for inadequate performancefollowing a pattern of „criticism‟ and „self-criticism‟. It was therefore not enoughfor cadres to passively go along with their assignments, they were given feedback onhow well they had carried these out. Since every member of the party occupied a placein the distribution of functions, no one was immune to such criticism. The case of one ofthe most prominent leaders in the CPN-M, Baburam Bhattarai – currently Nepal‟sPrime Minister – may serve as an example. Bhattarai became involved in the Maoistmovement in 1981 and has been a full-time activist since 1986 when he returned fromDelhi after completing his PhD with a thesis on underdevelopment in Nepal (see Bhattarai2003). He was later punished by the party for wishing to pursue an academic career.The issue revolved around his failure of service, that he had prioritized his ownneeds above those of the movement. On one occasion after dinner, we had been discussingthe issue of leaders‟ mistakes and I asked Nischal why Bhattarai had been punished:Nischal: „During the insurgency he wanted to take some time off to write anacademic paper related to his PhD. I don't know much about the academicstuff but he asked the party if he could take a leave and because of this hewas punished.‟Dan:„Just for suggesting it?‟Nischal: „He was a very important leader and it was a very critical time forthe movement. And the leader is very important for directing the course ofthe party. The others thought that if he had to concentrate on his writing, hewould be distracted from the path of the party. If the leader strays in histhoughts, then what will happen to the cadres? That's why they punishedhim.Dan:„And what kind of punishment did he get?‟Nischal: „There are two types of punishment: psychological and physical.He was just punished psychologically. He was pushed out of the Politburofor 6 months, I think. This is the real challenge of the revolutionary, to beable to challenge society and sacrifice one's family.‟The reason leaders are subject to this kind of criticism, I propose here, is becausethey are essential links between cadres and the revolutionary struggle. Nischal invokedtwo models of punishment but there was a third one which was much more widespreadon the level that YCL cadres and similar lower-level members operated: exclusion. Ifone could not fit into the organization, submitting to the party and the camp, one wassimply not worthy to be a revolutionary. I often heard cadres speak of „severe punish-125


C H A P T E R 3ment‟ that had befallen misguided members, and when I pressed the topic, it alwaysturned out that the ultimate punishment was to be thrown out of the party. 9In contrast to ordinary cadres, however, Bhattarai was too valuable to the party tobe thrown out, and he had instead to be disciplined back into the role of a loyal servant.In her essay „What is Authority?‟ (1961), Hannah Arendt uses the image of a pyramid toexplain how power operates in systems of governance that draw their authority from anoutside source, whether in institutions of kingship that rely on a divine principle or indemocratic governance where the population constitute the system‟s authority principle.If we consider the CPN-M through this image of the pyramid, we can see how, at eachstep below the top, power and authority are transmitted through dilution, filtered downso that successive layers are firmly integrated into the whole via their position „likeconverging rays whose common focal point is the top of the pyramid as well as thetranscending source of authority beyond it‟ (Arendt 1961:98). Bhattarai has both moreauthority and power than ordinary cadres and, precisely for this reason, he is more liableto criticism for failing to serve properly.This preoccupation with the correct behavior of leaders had many expressionsamong the YCL whole-timers. For one, leaders in the camp were expected to workharder than their subordinates. Nischal, for instance, explained that whereas cadrescould legitimately be excused from participating in party programs if they were ill, hisresponsibilities were „higher‟ and hence he was under more pressure to comply. Pradeepwas a living example of this principle, always busy, and cadres understood the importanceleaders served as instruments of the movement. Leaders were seen as essentialnot only for giving advice and educating cadres but also for coordinating action. „Wehave to be strong and unite,‟ Kamal had explained. „We need dais to collaborate ouraction…and for this we have to obey the command of the commander.‟A relationship between commanding and obeying was thus established that did notsimply pronounce an unconditional submission but a link between the coordinating effortsof leaders and cadres‟ desire to act in unison. Nihar, young and inexperienced ashe was, understood this very well when he said that although he was still learning hehad just joined for six months so far; he was still evaluating whether the party was whatit promised to be, and although he thought it a good sign that the party punished memberswho made mistakes, the same naturally applied to its leaders. „There must be agood leadership and they must follow the right path,‟ Nihar had said, „and if the leaders9 In rare cases from what I could gather, if someone had abused membership position to extortmoney or harass people, expelling could be prefaced by beatings. CPN-M‟s system of punishmentsis a topic yet to be written but it has none of the terror connected with the PhilippineMaoist Party during its purges (Garcia 2001).126


S U B M I T T I N G T O C A M P L I F Emake mistakes, we will not let them get away with it.‟ What cadres were obeying herewas not the power of the commander but rather his or her authority as it filtered downthrough the party hierarchy. From the cadres‟ perspective, the party structure expresseda reciprocity by which cadres gave leaders the power to command them in exchange formaking them punishable if they did not perform their roles properly. In the context of aNepali tradition of hierarchy whereby submission does not normally put subordinates ina position to openly criticize superiors (neither of Gray‟s models discussed above includethis option; see also Bennett 1983; Bista 1991; Parish 1993), this was quite a radicalkind of relationship.Leaders were therefore obeyed neither due to their personal authority nor becauseof their sanctioned position but because they were transient mediums for the power andauthority that filtered down through the command chain. Rather than focusing on thespecific commanders when discussing the content of an order, cadres talked instead ofthe command (nirdeshan) as that which they had to follow. Commands were supposedto be the same whether they came from the SC, VC or „mathi dai‟ and they were oftenrubricated as „senior commands‟ (mathi nirdeshan) or Party commands irrespective ofwho passed them on. Commands could be „good‟ or „bad‟ and cadres insisted that theywere not obliged to obey „bad commands‟. By this they meant those orders that werenot „in the interest of the people‟, i.e. against the well-being of the revolutionary‟s authority.Bad commands were those that were „anti-social‟. The perception of commandsas potentially bad pointed beyond the issue of a weakness that could be criticized. Aweak command, such as shopping for incorrect amounts of food or wrongly prioritizingwho to mobilize for a certain assignment, was not necessarily bad as in being withoutproper authority: weak commands invited criticism and correction but bad commandscould, in fact, be ignored. Unlike contracted soldiers, the cadres‟ submission made themanswerable to an authority beyond the party hierarchy, namely janata, and this allowedcadres to conceive of activities as legitimate even though they were beyond what theirleaders had directed.One example of such a situation was the incidents at the Pashupatinath temple fromDecember 2008 onwards where the government, under Maoist leadership, had interferedwith the tradition of only hiring Indian priests and insisted on nominating two Nepaliones instead. 10 This was fiercely resisted by the temple authorities and CPN-M cadres,the YCL in particular, tried to forcefully remove the Indian priest and ended up on sev-10 From CPN-M‟s perspective, India represents „imperial‟ interests in Nepal and thereforebreaches Nepal‟s sovereignty. The tradition of having Indian priests leading an important religioussite in Nepal was therefore expressive of Nepal‟s subjugation and a bond of servitude thatit was necessary to break in the process of liberating Nepal from the power of „foreign forces.‟127


C H A P T E R 3eral occasions in fights with the police, journalists and temple personnel, including theIndian priests themselves. Pashupatinath is a very important religious site for NepaliHindus and the Pashupatinath incidents developed into a very controversial issue, closelymonitored by the media and constituting one of the Maoist government‟s key politicalbattles.Although Pashupatinath did not fall within their area, Nayabasti cadres were calledupon a few times when the going got tough because they lived very close to the temple.It was a very complicated activity compared to what they were used to doing because itinvolved protecting certain people (the Nepali priests) in a secluded area that had itsown security procedures, keeping media personnel who were highly critical of the operationat arm‟s length while trying to extradite the resisting priests, and all in an environmentof intense public pressure. It was very easy to become separated from one‟s„upper command‟ and Suraj explained how they had tried to set up a perimeter insidethe temple that several journalists had breached and they had had to force them away.When the priests had resisted their forceful removal, they were instead beaten and thisincident, as Kamal recounted it, had not been ordered by the dai; that was not necessarybecause it was „a command by the people‟, i.e. the real locus of authority. The point isnot that this makes cadres immune to criticism; if they were seen to have acted wrongly,as in another case where a local thief was beaten, they would definitely have been criticizedand possibly punished (as they had been by Pradeep in relation to the thief). Rather,the idea that „the people‟ (janata) can issue a command directly without the interferenceof the party structure shows that the pyramid model of authority is not sufficientto understand the constitution of submission.If we return to Hannah Arendt‟s work on authority and power, we can take a closerlook at the distinction she makes between the two terms. Whereas power, understoodhere as force, enacts subjugation or submission, authority always stands outside power,as that which legitimizes it, and in this way is superior to it. An authoritarial relationbetween one who commands and one who obeys does not therefore rest on the power ofone over the other but in their mutual recognition of the hierarchy itself as that whichthey both have in common; the hierarchy wherein both have their stable and predeterminedplace is accepted as a legitimate instrument of authority (Arendt 1961:93). This isthe principle which both Baburam Bhattarai and low-level party cadres share and thereason why they are both punishable under the party hierarchy. Authority, however, isnot only different from power but also precedes it as that truth principle through whichsystems of power, or models of action, become possible. Along these lines, Arendt discussesthe role of authority as a type of foundation which establishes the conditions oflaw and even becomes law itself, authority as law. In this conceptualization, authority128


S U B M I T T I N G T O C A M P L I F Eemerges as a truth principle, an incorruptible seed to inspire and legitimize the socialand political order (ibid.:112-113).This link between authority as law or truth is helpful for throwing light on the constitutionof submission in the YCL. In Chapter 2, I discussed how the cadres‟ decisionto join was tied to an idea that they should serve „the poor and downtrodden‟, and becomeinvolved in the revolutionary process that had been instigated by the People‟sWar. The crucial notion evoked by cadres when referring to the relevance of their mobilizationwas janata, „the people‟, through phrases such as „the will of the people‟ or„working for the people‟. This was in keeping with the overall political line of the CPN-M, which sees itself as a force that grows out of the wants and needs of the proletariat; itis, as Prachanda has recently declared, „a great and glorious party‟, playing the „role ofvanguard of the proletariat class‟, and at the „center point of hope, assurance and attractionof the entire revolutionaries and patriots of the nation‟ (Prachanda 2012). Leadersand the cadres of YCL underlined very strongly the fact that the political object that theparty and they personally served was janata, and they were unequivocal in connectingtheir service with an idea that what they were ultimately serving was outside the party.Janata was the CPN-M‟s most vociferous truth principle. To be sure, the nationalistroots of the Nepali Communist Movement shine through in their songs and poetry (DeSales (2003) and the country‟s greatness and beauty still informs the party discoursebut, for the YCL cadres, it was always janata that constituted the important object oftheir struggle; it was janata that needed to be „liberated‟, brought out of poverty, andhave their rights addressed. With the post-war shift to electoral politics, it was ratherunsurprising that the notion of janata had become strengthened but the CPN-M‟s historyof a People‟s War and continued stress on its unique ability to represent the proletariator „masses‟ turned this into more than a mere rhetorical tactic; it constituted the locusof authority and underwrote the party‟s claim to legitimacy. Without the „voice‟, „will‟or a politics on behalf of janata, the Maoists risked being degraded to the elitist, selfservingand corrupt political cliques that they considered the other parties to be.Arendt‟s rendition of the model of authority introduced by the Romans may help inelucidating the relationship between cadres and leaders in Nayabasti. Rather than simplybeing a matter of correct ideas and Truth, authority in the Roman Empire was based onthe sacredness of the foundation, as something that could be passed on and was bindingon future generations. Rome itself became the symbol of this original authority and thejob for future rulers who could not repeat the original act was instead to build on it, toexpand it by creating new cities in its image (Arendt 1961:120). Authority, in short,meant to augment the foundation and, in this sense, it was always derivative of the originalfounders‟ authority. If we transfer this image of authority to cadres‟ engagement in129


C H A P T E R 3the CPN-M, we get an authority of the party that is „derivative‟ of the „people‟s will‟and can therefore only be an expression – more or less successful – of the foundation,an insight I shall build on in Chapter 7. Even if the link to the foundation in the case Iam describing is thematic rather than temporal, it follows that the party can never beidentical to that which it represents. The potential distance between authority and powercreates a space of interpretation that can make some commands „bad‟ (by being disconnectedfrom the foundation) and some perceivable directly by the cadres as „commandsfrom the people‟. 11 At the same time, the party is also that which can augment the latentforce of janata by becoming its (true) expression and can thus act as a mediator throughrepresentation from above (authority) and coordination (creating unity) from below.So leaders can be criticized by ordinary cadres for neglecting their duties, punishedby the party for not serving selflessly, and their commands ignored if they are seen to be„weak‟ or „bad‟. To be a commander and have the power of the command (nirdeshan) atone‟s disposal involves being a neutral medium for janata‟s authority and if this link issuspected to have been broken, leaders face punishment in the form of correction or expulsion.We are here far from the random and terrifying power of „divine kingship‟ asdetailed by David Graeber, where kings stands outside normal social morality and sealtheir authority through their ability to inflict arbitrary violence at will (2011). Maoistsovereignty must be deliberately systematic and logical without a hint of personal excesssince this would destroy the chain of authority which renders it legitimate. In orderto command their „soldiers‟, CPN-M leaders must be more perfect revolutionaries, noteccentric, extra-human ruler-kings. What are the implications of these insights for cadres‟submission to the party and camp hierarchy? How is the dual obligation to servejanata and „live under the party‟ conceived by the YCL members?SUBMITTING TO SACRIFICETo understand what happens to submission when the organizational order is expandedto include a source of authority outside the political structure, I return to the question ofwhat it means to obey. John Gray noted that what made brothers and sisters equal despitetheir asymmetrical relations related to age and gender was their allegiance to thesame principle of paternal authority; they were all subjugated to his will and required to11 Whereas the Roman foundation derives from past greatness (ibid.:122) and its mediators are aspecialized minority, making authority derivative of janata in the present opens up the possibilityfor accessing the source directly, without the interference of a pyramid structure. The „depth‟of authority thus becomes democratized and becomes a territory to guard. What cadres aretrained to in such a reading is to become professional mediators.130


S U B M I T T I N G T O C A M P L I F Eserve him. For the YCL cadres, however, as we have seen, what united them was not anauthority on the level of the camp organization – which is also ultimately why Nayabasti(despite appearances) was never simply a household – but the authority of janata.In a conversation I had with Ashmi – the commander of Section A since June – sheexplained the relationship between the authority of her previous „master‟, the sahu ofthe garment factory, and the section commander, which fleshes out this crucial distinction:Well, we met Pradeep and since the beginning I had been tempted to jointhe party as well. Pradeep asked me how long I had worked for the 'sahu' -referring to the owner of the factory, and I also started feeling that he is asahu because I had worked a lot for him and he used to earn a lot of money.Rather than working for the sahu, I thought, why not work for the otherswho are also working for the poor?What Ashmi was suggesting was that working in the camp, and under the command ofothers, was not the same as working for the commander. Leaders could be seen simplyas a way of linking oneself to the more general idea of „working for the poor‟ and this,in effect, made the commander equal to oneself, since he or she was also working forthe same agenda. It is this simple shift of reasoning that makes it possible to understandhow cadres saw their subordination as different from the one they had experienced aslaborers, and how the camp incorporated a strengthened idea of obedience with one ofrespect and equality and how these together constituted operations of submission withinthe YCL.In referring to this experience of obedience as establishing a principle which madecadres and leaders alike, cadres would occasionally coin the expression that „a goodcommunist is one who obeys‟, thereby turning the question of obedience into a matterof revolutionary praxis rather than party compliance. As Suraj noted:To become a good communist, the term 'good' is used. Whatever the policyand plan the party gives us, to obey all of this and being very committed.And not going in the wrong direction. So perceiving all the directions andcommands and emancipating the proletariat for making the New Nepal isconsidered a good communist.Arendt already noted that authority demands obedience; that is what sets it apartfrom the type of power that only commands or that which persuades through reasoning.It is precisely because the notion of a people‟s authority is so strong that obedience becomesa crucial virtue, and this extends the quest for militarization which also expresseda revolutionary ideal; more than simply denoting efficiency, which relies on obedience,the link to an ultimate source of authority expands the notion of submission and createsa leveling experience since it is a force that all revolutionaries are subjected to. „To be a131


C H A P T E R 3revolutionary (krantikari hunnu parcha),‟ I was told, „means giving time to the partyand obeying the responsibilities which have been given by the party.‟ In a nutshell, thatshort phrase contains the basic argument of both Chapter 2 and this chapter; that to becomea cadre means to oblige oneself to donate time and that this entails a wholesale (asopposed to unconditional) submission.The conception here of the revolutionary (or communist) unites the different aspectsof authority that I have discussed in this section. For the cadres, the relationshipbetween authority and power as found in their relationship with a sahu who combinesboth into a single person (the figure of the tyrant in Arendt‟s conceptualization), or asyoungsters in relation to elder male kin that are figures of considerable authority andsome power, has been turned on its head. Authority and power can be separated, andthough the latter is an extensively layered hierarchy and expects cadres to subordinatethemselves, authority is equated with janata and power with the party structure. Thisdistinction between authority and power as residing with the people and party respectivelygives us another tool to understand how hierarchy can both appear absolute andyet be nothing more than a skin underwritten by a strong current of loyalty to a cause.The two, naturally, coexist. Here, however, it is not only a vertical, hierarchical ideologywhich is encompassing in a Dumontian sense (Dumont 1970) but also a horizontal,egalitarian principle of authority that encompasses hierarchy.I think it is possible to argue that it is the coexistence of these two aspects of submissionthat defines the revolutionary party and also the experience of cadreship in theYCL. While the role of the hierarchy is to discipline cadres into becoming efficientweapons by reacting to a military organization, authority marks their development ascadres with the sign of the authentic struggle that all members are equally engaged in,and to which they must all equally contribute. Cadres act on behalf of a popular will,and this will is the „sacred‟ to which one must pay obedience, submit and sacrifice althoughthe people are not a seat of power and their authority instead transfers power tothe party hierarchy. In submitting to the party hierarchy, cadres accept this transfer ofauthority to the party and obey the power structure that embodies this authority. There isthen a double meaning to the requirement that a good communist is one who obeys:obeying the authority of the people by obeying the power of the party.While I have highlighted how equivalence is framed in asymmetrical but respectfulrelations between kin whereby subordinates are addressed in ways „that can be negotiated‟,and that maturation in the camp should be understood through the reciprocal idea ofapprenticeship rather than the rigidity of orders, it is relevant to add that there is nothingparticularly „gentle‟ about this arrangement. The expressions of equality and respect thatI have traced are not automatic or easy constitutions of the cadres as subjects but part of132


S U B M I T T I N G T O C A M P L I F Ea remaking of subjectivities that require a continuous struggle to participate in. Asymmetriesof sacrifice – the principle which makes cadres equal with respect to being subjectedto janata – comes at the price of struggle. The coming chapters will detail elementsof this struggle but I think it is relevant to prefigure the point here because itdraws a direct line between how cadres experienced their previous lives of migrant laboras dukha (sorrow, pain, hardship) and the way they sought to transform this into ageneralized class struggle (sangarshan). Cadres were positioned between these twomodes of understanding their lives – between one that only concerned them and theirfamilies, and one which invoked a generalized Other. Their struggle as cadres was neitherthe personal one of their „private‟ selves nor was it simply a metaphysical struggleon the altar of the Other; it was rather a matter of identifying with janata, of turning thisobject of the sacrifice into a size and form that could be consummated by their positionin the camp, to downscale it, as it were, to everyday cadreship.Submission opens up this aspect of the struggle, turning the general plea of mobilizationdiscussed in Chapter 2 into the forms of sacrifice that I shall discuss in the followingchapters. Because of the importance of the role of struggle throughout the process,it is worth repeating Ashmi‟s explanation of the continuity and difference betweenher life before and now, this time in full:When I was in the village, I was struggling, and so I did in the carpet industryand here I am also struggling in one sense. Life is a struggle; you haveto compromise with so many things. Now I am living and working here.People think that we are just eating and sleeping but we are also engaged inour own struggle over here. Life is totally different now. Before I could goanywhere, say anything, do whatever I liked. But now it is different. Everythinghappens under a chain of command, the party is really different. A fewdays ago my friend left from here. She might have been advised by relativesor parents: "Why are you attached with this kind of institution who isn't givingyou money?" But I told her that it is not so: "We did not come here toearn money or to flash nice dresses or eat tasty food. Revolution is reallydifficult. We came here for the class emancipation of the people."In one sense, then, submission to a strict hierarchy is part of the struggle, part ofthat which one must give oneself to, the necessity of the sacrifice („a good communist isone who obeys‟). Though camp life was structured partly like a family and partly like amilitary camp where both sorts of power relied on an element of coercion, it was notcoercion, however, that was the foundation of this relationship but rather authority.Nothing bound cadres to the camp; in fact, they were generally warned about enteringprecisely because it required a good deal of willingness (engagement, investment) tolive here. Arendt‟s dictum that „authority implies an obedience in which men retain theirfreedom‟ well expresses this seemingly paradoxical situation for it is precisely obedi-133


C H A P T E R 3ence that was their freedom – that which connected the cadres to the object of theirstruggle, and therefore one of the principle modes of cadres‟ re-subjectivization.Submission, I would suggest, was then a kind of threshold that instantiated a relationshipbetween the individual and the party, retaining the original structure of authoritybut acknowledging the role of the party as the pyramid connecting janata with thecadre. By submitting oneself, cadres committed to actually fighting for the ideas (i.e. theclass emancipation of the people) and did this by turning this into a mode of living (i.e.camp life and the party hierarchy). It was at this moment that the struggle changed character,from the one they experienced as laborers to the one that accompanied their livesas cadres, including the predicament of equality between all. That is why the (good)revolutionary must obey – it is his first act of devotion and the condition of any furthersacrifice. Without submission, there can be no sacrifice.While submission can thus favorably be seen as a threshold, it does more thansimply instantiate a sacrificial relation between cadres and janata. It also introduces thecadre into the community of members. I have traced elements of this community in thischapter by referring to the ideas of sameness and mutuality that accompanied relationsof superordination. This was expressed in a mode of behavior that stressed relations ofequality between commanders and commandeered and through forms of address, but thediscussion in the previous section of leaders‟ precarious position points, I think, in thesame direction. Leaders, like Bhattarai, were more punishable for minor weaknessesthan were the cadres. It is as if, by being closer to authority and power („being importantfor the movement‟ was how Nischal expressed it), they were also closer to the dangersof falling. More was required of them and they had to work harder, and were in turn allowedto act as the benefactors of numerous layers of cadres below them.But this was in no way a guarantee of their position and, as if to illustrate this frailty,a Central Committee Meeting during 2009 proscribed party leaders from owningprivate property and initiated a transfer of their assets to the party. One of my informantshad then proudly declared that even Prachanda did not own the pen he carried in hispocket. As such, their status as leaders depended on their continuous work for the party;a compliance that I think can be equated with the cadres‟ submission. In submission, ittherefore appears that they were all equals – leaders and cadres alike. Everybody contributedequally through subordination, and this way submission can be seen as a way tomake everybody equal in the sacrifice.134


S U B M I T T I N G T O C A M P L I F ECONCLUSIONIn this chapter I have analyzed the seemingly paradoxical relations of hierarchy andequality within the YCL cadre community as a first step to understanding how post-warrevolutionary sacrifice is experienced. I have argued that rather than seeing vertical andhorizontal relations as opposed, they express different aspects of revolutionary subjectivityand that laborers‟ re-subjectivization into cadres is premised on being able to fitinto and align themselves with the differing requirements that obedience, deference, apprentice,cooperation, disobedience and respect express. Processes of submission, as Ihave analyzed them here, are conditioned by a number of overlapping institutional concernssuch as the histories and imaginaries of being a revolutionary party built on militaryeffectiveness and discipline, and the understanding that all cadres are engaged in acommon enterprise divided only by levels of expertise and not worth. The institutionalsolution to the challenge of distributing positions to enhance efficiency and integratingmembers through a common ethos of equality is, as I have shown, to foster a culturethat mixes military discipline with apprenticeship, by bringing new cadres up to thestandard of their experienced comrades without foregoing the qualities that made CPN-M cadres renowned during their military campaign. This has become expressed throughkinship idioms of elder and younger siblings, thus rendering the saying: „we live togetheras brothers and sisters‟ meaningful and operable within a tightly-structured party hierarchy.Issues of respect and mutuality notwithstanding, cadres also highlight their abilityto bypass the party‟s command structure and directly intercept and act upon janata‟sorders, and while it is doubtful whether this has any practical implications, it does providejunior cadres with a „checks and balances‟ logic with which the erratic or abusivepowers of leaders can be resisted. More importantly, it gives cadres a legitimate reasonfor submitting to the institutional logic of the CPN-M and the YCL as long as these areseen as expressive of the proletariat‟s needs. These processes of submission are thereforenot only relevant for understanding how the YCL functions as a revolutionary unit;they also help us appreciate central aspects of revolutionary sacrifice since expressionsof hierarchy and equality connect cadres with their commanders, the party hierarchy,and the people on whose behalf they are sacrificing their time and youth. The next chapterbuilds on these linkages in order to investigate how cadres in practice sacrificethrough carrying out elaborate, routinized labor-chores in the camp.135


4 LABORING FOR COLLECTIVITYWhatever my party commands, I will do. If tomorrow I am asked to go toHimal [the snow-capped Himalayas], of course I will go.- Section Vice-Commander RohitThis chapter considers cadres' camp work, most importantly their section chores thatformed the basis of the apprenticeship between commanders and cadres and which weresection cadres‟ primary duty. Rather than participating in outside party activities, mostdays were spent in camp with chores and leisure activities, and I wonder how they wereconsidered to be meaningful endeavors when people had in fact signed up as revolutionariesand avant-garde activists of a coming New Nepal. What was so „avant-garde‟about domestic chores that they could sustain an idea of participating in important politicalwork? Is it possible that chores constituted a form of sacrifice, and that it was thisquality which made them relevant for their wider political engagement with society? Forsomething to be a sacrifice, it must enable a kind of 'exchange' other than merely theconsummation of materiality. In the tradition established by Hubert & Mauss (1964), forinstance, this involves the communication with divinity; for Girard (1977) it is the externalizationof evil from within the community, and so forth. But what is achieved bychores? What kind of sacrifices are they?‟In seeking to address these questions, I focus on the possible relationship betweendaily chores and sacrifice through an analysis of what it means to labor in Nayabasti.Chores only constituted a portion of cadres‟ overall duties that they were assigned bytheir commanders, with the most well-known and conspicuous work being related totheir participation in public programs and campaigns, which will be considered in Chapters7 and 8. What was significant about chores was that they were exclusive to cadres‟section status, and when they rose above the section hierarchy they became exemptedfrom this type of work. Chores were therefore clearly related to cadres‟ process of apprenticeshipin the party but were at the same time an entirely internal aspect of the


L A B O R I N G F O R C O L L E C T I V I T Ycamp‟s daily organization that was inferior to the public activities party leaders couldcommand cadres to do, and which were usually referred to as party jimmebari, partyresponsibilities. This chapter is an effort to understand how, in fact, chores were nonethelessimportant for junior cadres‟ activism by connecting it with their understandingsand values of labor.To analyze this, I will build on Marxist notions of labor, as it allows me to unpackthe intricate ways in which routinized and unmarked activities became related to anethos of revolutionary subjects. My argument is that chores were formative for cadres‟integration into the party community by teaching them values of collective labor, and bybeing experienced as necessary sacrifices. It is in this sense we can understand elementarychore work as sacrifices – as something which cadres willingly do in order to arriveat a result beyond the immediate exchange involved in the work itself. More specifically,what was being reproduced by sectionalized work was, on the one hand, the camp asa space of collectivity that stood in opposition to a selfish self identified with being outsidethe party and, on the other, the idea that these mundane tasks constituted the necessarywork at the bottom of the organizational pyramid, lending them political relevanceas well. Chores therefore represented essential values that were at the heart of CPN-M'srevolutionary subject and section cadres‟ labor could be construed as worthy even withrespect to the wider revolutionary goals. The practice and ideal of chores that I analyzehere thus challenges the idea that, as menial and 'unfree' labor, they were just examplesof yet another type of 'exploitation' of the young and unskilled. 1The chapter is divided into four sections. I first present a description of daily choresand routines in order to offer a sense of how they encompassed a multiplicity of activitiesthat were integrated into the flow and very spatiality of camp life. Second, usingMarxist ideas of labor, I suggest that we can gain an understanding of the camp as aspace in which cadres must continuously labor, and I draw a distinction between twoprincipal modes of labor – scheduled section chores and an „always-ready‟ discipline –to show how laboring emerged as a dominant trope and practice of camp life. In thethird section, I investigate how labor was invested with values of collectivity throughthe way chores were organized and by the way its products – particularly through cooking– were seen as common goods that benefitted all camp members. Considering how1 The situation I am describing here is comparable to similar to social situations in Nepal where(young) people are expected to give their labor freely, such as in the tradition of corvee labor(Holmberg 1989) or within extended kinship networks. Though, the duality of chores and publicwork renders my case unique as argued, these parallels show that the kind of submissivenessthat chores require are not absent from local cultural relations, as touched upon in previouschapters, and that the sense of duty that cadres experience in Nayabasti reminisces of family andreligious life in Nepal (see Gray 1995).137


C H A P T E R 4the camp came to symbolize a moral break with dominant society, I contrast ideas ofcollectivity, samuhikta 2 and selfishness, swartha, in order to highlight how these opposingvalues were mapped onto camp life and life outside the camp, respectively. In thefinal section, I expand on the discussion of labor in the camp by linking it with the Maoistcommunity and its political vision. Giving first an example of how cleaning in thecamp performed a politics of representation on behalf of the proletariat, and second byturning to a discussion of Arendt‟s concept of labor as reproductive, I venture to showhow camp labor attained a relevance for cadres‟ aspiration to revolutionary work. As Ishall touch upon in the conclusion, the larger problematic of camp chores is related tothe precarious role of the whole-timer camps in the changing priorities within the CPN-M, which gradually severed the link between chores and party work, thus threatening toundermine the organizational rationale that made household labor relevant for cadres‟political struggle. First, however, I shall provide a description of the daily chores andhow they are expressive of section membership.DAILY ACTIVITIES IN NAYABASTIIt is 5 am and the house is slowly waking up. The thin rolled out quilts that serve asmattresses are folded away and placed against the walls allowing the rooms to regain anordered look. Cadres shuffle down to the wells behind the house where washing routinesare carried out and people take turns to wash their face, neck and feet thoroughlywhile taking turns handling the lever for the pump - a favor that is immediately returnedwhen the next in line needs to wash. The rest of the morning is spent on the roof, whichserves as the camp's common area. Anil, a tall and mild-tempered 24-year old, hasfetched a collection of the day‟s newspapers as part of his duties, and the next hours arespent calmly reading through the papers.The most popular papers to be read are the Maoist‟s own daily Janadesha or weeklyJanadisha but there are also samples of the more common national papers such asNaya Patrika or Kantipur. Chewing through the papers is a slow process because fewcan read well and several cadres are often reading the same article, helping each otherunderstand, while others read slowly out loud to catch the meaning of complicated messages.The senior leaders are usually away meeting up with other party members in the2 I henceforth use samuhikta, collectivity, and samuhik, the collective, to refer to the same idiomthough their use naturally differs according to what is being described. Cadres also used thework samuhako, of a group, when talking about these ideas. I caution the reader, however, thatthis is not a precise semiological analysis of how varying words describing a collective wereemployed, and I use the vernacular idioms rather to refer to a general idea that it encapsulates.138


L A B O R I N G F O R C O L L E C T I V I T Yarea, and this occasionally includes the Section Commanders. Pradeep is invariablynever in the camp until later, and the young cadres are left largely to themselves.Having updated themselves on the news, preparations for the morning meal start.The section in charge of cooking the day‟s two dalbhat 3 meals starts chopping onions,potatoes and garlic on a small bench towards one end of the roof with section membersdividing the work between them: lentils and rice need to be washed, buckets of watermust be fetched from the wells and balanced on the narrow stairs leading to the roof,vegetables have to be cleaned and chopped. With 26 to feed, cooking easily takes two tothree hours although the most labor-intense periods are at the beginning and after themeal when pots and utensils are cleaned. Meanwhile, cadres from another section sweepthe floor of the roof, clean the two toilets in the house, and run round the remainingcommon areas cleaning the floors in corridors and on balconies. For the remaining cadres,the school grounds across from the camp are waking up and, if there are no urgentpersonal errands such as washing clothes or showering and they have not been commandedto do other assignments, many just watch the children playing in the yard beforetheir classes begin.It is 9.30 and dalbhat is ready. Most of the leaders have returned and people line upto receive their portion from the cooking team who generously fill the plates. Mats arespread out for everyone and the pattern of diners always makes a circle with people facingeach other. A bowl of fresh chilies is passed around and water is shared from acommon jug. 4 The team who cooked only eats once everyone else has refilled theirplates and a portion is set aside if one of the senior leaders has not yet returned. Food isconsumed in a quick no-nonsense manner and, after the meal, everyone (including Pradeepor guests that might have joined the group for the food) washes their plate and returnsit to a straw bench for drying.There are two scenarios for what might happen during the rest of the day, betweenthe two dalbhat meals. Cadres either participate en masse in a collective program or elselinger in the camp. In the first case, cadres start getting ready after the morning meal bydressing in their signature YCL clothing 5 or otherwise (which is most of the cases) theysimply put on their sneakers so they can move about confidently and quickly. Large3 Standard Nepali dish of rice, lentil soup and fried vegetables.4 The important distinction between pure and impure castes is expressed in whom one can andcannot receive water and food from. Impure castes are referred to as pani na chalne jaat, peoplefrom whom water cannot be accepted, and is part of the 1847 Mulukhi Ain Code (see Chapter1). The sharing of water between cadres is one significant way of underlining the fact that theircommunity is built on radically different principles.5 Clothing is generally provided by the party and particularly this „uniform‟, which consists of apair of sports shoes and a blue jogging suit with stripes down the side.139


C H A P T E R 4programs need constant coordination between leaders from different corners of the party,and a steady stream of revisions makes it necessary for leaders to continuously correctthe times and places for the cadres‟ participation. These moments are thus alwayshectic, with dressing, with the Section Commanders trying to grasp what the plan willbe and passing on the information to their sections, with the uncertainty of who will staybehind to guard the camp and cook, with whether to bring party flags or not, with thenature of the program and which slogans to be shouting. And Pradeep, busier than ever,is non-stop on the phone. I shall return to this scenario in Chapters 7 and 8.In the second instance, which I shall focus on in this and the next chapters, the daypasses slowly in the camp, interspersed with the occasional chores that sections are responsiblefor carrying out. The work of keeping the camp falls upon section cadres, andchores are systematized by operating a rota. Sections are collectively assigned two major,alternating tasks, cooking or cleaning. So when Section A cooks, for instance, Bcleans and C rests and the next day, B cooks, C cleans and A rests and so on. Cookinglasts between three to four hours for each meal due to the large number of mouths to befed, whereas cleaning is primarily a morning routine that can easily be finished beforenoon.Most of the day is therefore spent without too much activity - particularly for theoff-duty section cadres. Many take naps or watch television, if there is no power outage,although TV is never a whole-day indulgence and cadres also take time out to read orsimply hang out on the roof or in front of the camp to watch neighborhood life. Asevening approaches, the section in charge of cooking will be re-activated and start theirwork. Sometimes, cadres play a game of volleyball on the school field across from thecamp in the late afternoon, or they might venture to a nearby football field while thefood is being prepared. As it is getting dark, those who have been out are returning. Ingeneral, all outdoor activities in Kathmandu recede after nightfall and people quicklyshuffle home before the city is engulfed in darkness, and the camp is no exception tothis rule. After-dinner hours are short and lazy and, at around 10pm, sometimes sooner,the night bundles are once again rolled out to cover the floors of the rooms, and as onestarts spreading his bed out, others quickly follow. The only ones awake this late are thenight sentries who take turns every two hours between 11pm and 5am to keep watchover the camp and the cadres.I have now shown how chores rarely filled out an entire day and left ample time forother activities. They were nonetheless always present as work waiting to be done whencadres were on duty and kept the sections active throughout the day. Chores were thereforeessentially sectionalized, and participating in obligatory household work thusserved to actualize the section structure. Not only were the chores undertaken by sec-140


L A B O R I N G F O R C O L L E C T I V I T Ytions but also organized by them. Cadres, and ultimately their commanders, were responsiblefor making the scheduled rota work. Since sections were exclusively an incamporganization system, as discussed in the previous chapter, their coordination wasquite flexible as Pradeep was supremely in charge of regrouping people and changingschedules but this rarely happened and instead sections were given the responsibility oforganizing their common duties between them. This freedom of organization also impactedon cadres, who could often swap duties with others provided, of course, that therequired work was still satisfactorily carried out. Such a scenario was, in fact, common.When sections had cooking duties they divided themselves into a morning and an eveningteam since it was enough to have three or four people cooking at a time, but cadresregularly traded teams with their section comrades, and this was easily accomplishedafter clearing it with their commander.On the other hand, cadres rarely swapped duties with someone from another section,and this would also have been more complicated as both Section Commanderswould have to approve of such a shift. Cadres identified with this sectional division oflabor and presented themselves to me saying, 'Today I have cooking duties', or, 'TomorrowI am off'. Work assigned to sections constituted a responsibility that had to be resolvedwithin the section and was a duty which was given collectively to the sections tosolve, rather than to individual cadres, and it had to be dealt with accordingly. Sectionwork was thus an endeavor that depended upon being able to fit into a system of divisions– you chop onions while I carry water – that only added up to a finished productby counting all the individual contributions as a whole.While the section structure and cooking were the clearest examples of the need tocollectively organize work within units, the principle applied in other areas of camp lifeas well. Cleaning, as the other major chore, involved coordinating who cleaned the twotoilets, who swept the rooms, and engaging in keeping the house clean throughout theday, particularly the roof. The role of guarding the camp at night was also organized bysections through the sentry system. One Section Commander was given the duty for aweek at a time to prepare a schedule whereby cadres took two-hour turns to be on lookoutfrom the roof, and though this particular chore cut across the section structure (allsection cadres were obliged to participate), cadres were here also part of a team that hadto organize the shifts of a night by coordinating with each other. The underlying principlehere was that work was carried out in units and the responsibility for completing it –although transferred through the hierarchical structure – fell to all the members inunison. To be a section member was therefore to be part of a team that depended oneach other, and everyone was expected to be involved in the collective endeavor ofhousehold chores.141


C H A P T E R 4Section work was not the only type of work activity that section cadres wereobliged to do. Cleaning, in particular, did not just fall upon a section every third day butextended to personal hygiene and a requirement for keeping the camp and the sectionrooms orderly and uncluttered at all times. Irrespective of their specific section assignments,cadres were therefore often occupied with putting things out of the way, such asmy bag if I accidentally left it unzipped or too close to the door. Suraj or Kamal would,for instance, often discreetly move it into a corner of the room, and cadres kept theirown belongings in closed sports bags at the back of the rooms or hung on the walls. Tokeep the camp clean, cadres swept rooms, corridors and other common areas severaltimes a day and each floor had a small broom for quick access. In addition, clothes hadto be washed almost daily by hand, and this posed a challenge during the rainy seasonwhere hanging trousers, shirts and even shoes to dry indoors gave a sudden, unorderedlook to the rooms.Added to these chores, sectional and individual, was a rather nebulous feature ofcamp life that had to do with how cadres prepared themselves for the constant possibilityof work, even when they were seemingly idle. This disciplinary feature of how cadresbehaved was evident in the daily relationship between leaders and juniors andsomething I experienced as well since I spent most of my time in the company of thelatter. At any moment during the day, commanders or one of the middle leaders abovemight enter a room and commandeer cadres for work. These were often petty things,such as asking them to help someone else in the mess – the word used for kitchen – orunloading food items that had been brought to the camp, or just calling the cadre outsidethe room to pass on a message. It very often happened that I would be sitting togetherwith some of the cadres in one of the section rooms for small-talk or an interview, and adai or a commander would abruptly open the door and ask the cadres to come out or getready to leave. Reactions were always prompt: stopping in the middle of a sentence, cadreswould get up and follow their commander out of the room. Since there were easily10 leaders above an ordinary cadre – counting the FGL, Vice Commander and SectionCommander along with all the other seniors (see Appendix 5) – this was a very regularfeature of life in the camp, and it completely punctured the otherwise laid-back atmospherethat developed after the morning dalbhat, when most cadres could retreat from thecollective chores.This sudden interruption of commands cultivated a powerful alertness. The way inwhich leaders entered the room already prefigured this relationship. Their arrival withcommands would be resolute, confident and, in the case of Pradeep, also quite loud, andwhenever someone entered the many small social hubs that formed around activities orrooms, everyone would attentively turn their heads in anticipation. In this way, cadres142


L A B O R I N G F O R C O L L E C T I V I T Ywere attuning their bodies to being commanded, putting themselves at the service oftheir seniors. To this should be added the fact that no space in the camp was safe fromsuch interruption as all areas were seen to have open access not only to other membersbut also to visitors. The entire camp was treated like an open office space where everybodycould enter rooms without a knock on the door, and this included Pradeep's privateroom when he was home. Cadres themselves shuffled between rooms when shiftingfrom one activity to another, and because leaders constantly came and went, there was asteady flow of interruptions – large and small – that precluded cadres from withdrawinginto a corner and transforming their day off from section work into a space of leisure.I felt this inability to set up a private space for interviews quite keenly. Whenever Istarted an interview, I would always suggest that we moved into another, empty room,but it was rare that we would not be interrupted. Sometimes, senior cadres would deliberatelyintrude to check on what their section cadres were saying during interviews butit also often happened that others would arrive and start reading, take a nap or sit downto listen to us. It clearly showed that there was no such thing as an „office‟ one couldclose the door to and expect to remain uninterrupted or unnoticed, nor any „privateroom‟ for that matter, as cadres lived together with their section in one dormitory. Allareas of the camp belonged to its members and were even open to outsiders to enterwithout warning.In this sense, the camp space was itself collectivized and the required alertness ofwork penetrated the everyday. All spaces in the camp were, in a way, party spaces andthis party space, in turn, seemed to revolve around modes of work whether as chores,individual duties or alertness. It suggests that cadres were either actively working or engagedin preparing themselves for it – in washing their clothes or in being attentive tothe arrival of leaders' commands. The continuous flow of work across sections, of individualcadres who are commanded, routines of cleaning and order, cadres swapping duties– these connections point to a need for a broader approach to understanding what itmeans to work in this context.CONTINUOUS AND DISCIPLINED LABORHow might we theorize the diverse aspects of work in Nayabasti? Here, it is fruitful tolook at the Marxian notion of labor and the distinction he made between estranged orforced labor, on the one hand, and creative labor, on the other. The first is the activityone engages in as an employee and which results in a salary. A worker has no relationshipto the product of his labor because he is working for someone else and the work istherefore a time-bound, and often spatially demarcated, activity. Man, engaged in this143


C H A P T E R 4kind of labor, is therefore unfree, driven by an external force, like an animal in need ofshelter and food, and his work is not the satisfaction of a need but „merely a means tosatisfy needs external to it‟ (Marx 1988:74).The other and more creative form of labor creates humans as a „species-life‟ distinctfrom animals by activity that is not tied by necessity. As products of nature, humansmust be active to survive: gathering food, finding shelter and so on. In this, theyare like animals, defined by „life activity‟. But unlike animals, they are conscious beingsthat reflect upon their own being, and „the object of labor‟ is therefore nothing less than„the objectification of man‟s species-life‟ (ibid.:77). Human beings realize their potentialas humans only by a creative interaction with the world, by a type of labor whichsets them free rather than binding them to structures of domination. Or, as the HungarianMarxist philosopher István Mészáros aptly put it: „Productive activity is, therefore,the mediator in the “subject-object relationship” between a human mode of existence,ensuring that he does not fall back into nature, does not dissolve himself into nature.‟(cited in Patterson 2009:148). In other words, it is through (creative) labor that man createsthe conditions for his own existence as a human being; it is labor that „frees‟ himfrom nature. 6It was this basic idea that allowed a philosophy of practice to be converted into apolitical program of revolution. Because practice could be revolutionary, given that itwas „critical‟; all it needed was guidance, and Lenin‟s famous „What is to be done‟ attemptsjust that: a model of guidance of the masses against „spontaneity‟ and instead6Marx has given a clear formulation of this creative nature of labor in the first volume of Capital:”Labor is, in the first place, a process in which both man and Nature participate,and in which man of his own accord starts, regulates, and controls the material reactionsbetween himself and Nature. He opposes himself to Nature as one of herown forces, setting in motion arms and legs, head and hands, the natural forces ofhis body, in order to appropriate Nature‟s productions in a form adapted to hisown wants. By thus acting on the external world and changing it, he at the sametime changes his own nature” (Marx 1887:124).This idea of labor as essential to human nature has been integral to communist theory,starting with Marx‟s own Theses on Feuerbach from 1845 where he formulated a rudimentaryphilosophy of practice (in Fischer 2008:169-171). Here, human activity was understoodas a dynamic „revolutionizing practice‟ whereby man could change the circumstancesof his social conditions and, rather than an abstracted individual who contemplatedthe world, „The essence of man,‟ wrote Marx, is „the ensemble of social relations‟ andnot an inherent quality. Practice was thus not only the foundation of humanity, but alsothe road to changing it – an idea that Mao developed in his 1937 essay „On Practice‟where truth is discovered through practical experience rather than the other way around –and to be a revolutionary was therefore to engage in „practical-critical‟ activity (Mao1937).144


L A B O R I N G F O R C O L L E C T I V I T Yorganized under a small centralized revolutionary organization (Lenin 1973). Whattherefore separated ordinary practice from revolutionary practice was that the latter wascritical and guided by a desire for transformation, or, as Mao writes, continuously „risingto a higher level‟ (Mao 1937).These two fundamental ideas – that to be human is to labor, and that labor is themeans to change the world – establishes labor-as-practice as the essential activity of therevolutionary. What cadres must „give‟ to the party is their labor but, unlike in a capitalistrelationship where labor is forced, the labor of the revolutionary must be voluntaryand be involved in the development of the cadre, i.e. leading to truth, as Mao explained.Where one of Marx‟s criticisms of estranged labor was that it introduced a distinctionbetween free-time and work-time, creative labor is conducive of human developmentand therefore already „free‟. Consequently, and crucial for the present analysis, a Marxistsystem of labor does not distinguish between time off and time „on‟ since laboring isa common good, not merely a way to extract capital.Section cadres‟ work in the camp, this leads me to suggest, was a way of institutionalizingthis essential relationship between cadres and the party, by teaching cadres areadiness to labor around the clock. A principal function of the sentry system was notjust to teach cadres the art of collaboration, and far less to protect the camp from theftsince, apart from an old computer in Pradeep‟s room, there was nothing of economicvalue to steal. Instead, I propose, what it accomplished with its frequent two-hour shiftswas to ensure that four people were disturbed in their sleep every night when there waseffectively nothing important to do. On other occasions, when cadres were participatingin party work the following morning, they would often get up as early as 3am althoughthis meant arriving several hours ahead of anyone else. In fact, the elimination of workas tied to specific hours was perceived as a general aspect of cadre life, with leaderswarning newcomers that „here, you should not expect to get proper sleep‟ since „acommand may come during the night‟. Work was accordingly not something that couldbe divided into a comfortable distinction between being on and off duty and, in theory,cadres had to labor continuously, or at least be prepared to do so.The alertness to the possibility of sudden commands, described above, adds to thispicture of labor as a continuous enterprise. In contrast to the specific assignments inherentin chores and the sentry duty, the alertness to obey does not have a fixed duration ora specified content of activity associated with it. Compared to chores, it can be read as aform of passivity although this does not mean that it is necessarily relaxed, since it requiresa disciplining of the self as cadres always have to be prepared to respond to seniormembers‟ commands. How can we understand the kind of discipline at work here?Cadres frequently used the word basnu when speaking of their obligations to sit and145


C H A P T E R 4wait to be mobilized. Basnu has a wide range of connotations but basically means „tostay‟; in its passive form it refers to the place where one lives or resides and in its mostactive form it means simply to sit down. Suspended between this active and passivemode it well captures cadres‟ practice of waiting to be commanded that similarly involvedan activity of passivity. Basnu, sitting or living, was both a way of placing oneselfin a relationship of subordination with respect to one‟s commanders but in a muchmore practical sense it was indicative of how cadres were simply obliged to sit and waitas a distinctively disciplined activity that had to be able to respond properly to a command.As a kind of labor, to „sit and wait‟ obviously mobilizes the body in a different waythan the regimental and partitioned disciplining that Foucault describes meticulouslywith the rise of modern forms of power (see Foucault 1977): the power that divides thebody into separate areas to work on; that turns the timetable into a principal tool forsegmenting and optimizing time; that inoculates training through tests. Cadres‟ basnudisciplineseems rather to draw on the Marxian idea of labor as a form of creativity withit‟s potentiality for producing a rewarding experience that is congruent with man‟s capacityto create. Such a type of labor must remain unrestrained because it is onlythrough an individual‟s voluntary engagement that a sense of self-fulfillment can beproduced; in order to become „free‟ from bounded labor, cadres‟ must become the authorsof their activity. Only in this way can laboring produce an experience of meaningfulness.The ad hoc work that arrived via sudden commands from leaders was such a„regime‟ of labor. It reminded cadres that they were always active, and that there was nosuch thing as a part-time sacrifice, and it institutionalized this point through an organizationof the day and the space of the camp so that simply living there was to be, in asense, disciplined. Unlike in regimental disciplinary institutions, Nayabasti leaders hadno advanced techniques at their disposal for tuning cadres, but that would also have defeatedthe purpose of disciplining them to a communist idea of labor precisely because itneeded to be partly unregulated so as to allow them to experience an authorship of theirown basnu.What camp life needed to teach cadres, then, was not simply to obey but rather theprinciple of always being prepared. And herein lies, I believe, an essential aspect of theway labor was attached to the transformation of individuals into cadres. Cadres were notgoaded into perfect soldiers through strict and widespread disciplinary techniques – theywere, after all, not being fostered to become killing machines – but were rather arrangedin a frame where taking the necessary steps to perform their roles properly was left tothem. One might say that this type of labor taught cadres to be „always-ready‟ as opposedto the Althusserian formula of „always-already‟ where subject positions point146


L A B O R I N G F O R C O L L E C T I V I T Ybackwards to a pre-existing social order (Althusser 1971). Always-ready, by contrast,accepts the need for cadres to („always‟) submit themselves to the organizational systemand its categories of personnel but points towards that which is yet to come and lays theresponsibility of bridging the gap between the systematization of roles and correct activityon cadres‟ performance. We could think of labor here as the activity that makes thisbridging possible. This ties into the discussion of apprenticeship in Chapter 3, as thisdefined the relationships between commander and cadres where through the latter wasgiven a chance to develop. In addition to seeing submission as a matrix of hierarchicaland egalitarian relations, the discussion on basnu-discipline shows that obligations ofobedience, by not being so strict and regulated, created a space within which cadrescould learn to act correctly, thus turning them into authors of their own subjection.The various aspects of laboring in the camp that I have analyzed thus show howNayabasti camp in itself became a space of labor due to its continuous presence as activetasks or as disciplined basnu. Moreover, because this mode of living life throughlabor, as it were, referred back to the symbolisms of sacrifice connected with joining, itdescribed cadres‟ own investment in becoming revolutionary activists. Junior full-timeactivists were trained in a Marxist ethos of laboring as the activity through which theyboth contributed to the movement and realized their aspirations of sacrifice, since it wasa gift they were giving voluntarily. What labor in the camp did was then to give cadresan instrument with which to accomplish their transformation into the cadres they signedup for. This made the YCL camps quite different from regular army camps that likewisehave extensive disciplinary requirements for an ordered everyday life and for soldiers‟behavior (Kold 2011). Cadres were not merely personally invested in becomingmaobadi but it was through the various modes of labor in the camp – from the structuredand routinized to cadres‟ preparing themselves for commands – that they were activatedto enact this transformation.COLLECTIVITY AND SELFISHNESSI have so far invoked a Marxist theory of labor to throw light on various aspects of everydaylife in Nayabasti and suggested that if we consider these diverse activities underthe common heading of labor, we can begin to see how they espoused an ethic of camplife whereby cadres invested in their role as party activists by training their performanceas members of the camp community. In this section, I explore how labor was not merelyan end in itself but brought out competing values of collectivity and selfishness that cadresused to distinguish camp life from a life outside the party. I do this by first discuss-147


C H A P T E R 4ing the concept of samuhik, the collective, as it was invoked by cadres and the Maoistcommunity in general.Maoist members generally spoke of how important it was to „stress on the collective‟.The notion of samuhik is central to the CPN-M and its self-image as a partyfighting on behalf of the Nepali people and the sovereignty of the country against theaggression and „foreign interests‟ of, particularly, India and the USA. Samuhik wastherefore above all part of the party‟s discourse when describing its focus on Nepal andits citizens as an entity, thereby underlining the importance of unity within the realm.Samuhik was not only what the party was striving for in its political program but themodel for organizing work so that everybody worked together towards a common goal.On this level, it referred to the ideal of uniting. A part-time YCL cadre in Jorpati, wholiked to compose his own songs, invoked it in this way during one of his spontaneousperformances, chanting a verse that sounded like the refrain from any CPN-M politicalspeech:If we collectively unite as one, then the feudals will fleeThe change is for all, and all have to understand thisDrop by drop the sea will emergeWake up liberators and wake up the proletariat friendsCollectivity had to do with organizing activism for the best possible results. Kamal,an 18-year-old Tamang who had first been a part-timer before he came to Nayabasti lessthan a year before, spoke, for instance, of how cleaning campaigns that cadres werespearheading in the neighborhood could be over in less than two hours if only everybodyworked collectively together, that is if everybody cooperated. Samuhako therebycame to constitute an ideal of laboring as an activist, and section chores were a principledsite where this value was trained and expressed.Reflecting this, the various labor activities in Nayabasti were assigned differentialimportance in the day-to-day prioritization of cadres‟ time. Daily priorities betweencompeting requirements for work communicated the message that the essential labor inthe camp was that which was organized in sections and which had as its focus, not theindividual cadre and his hygiene or education, but rather the entire cadre community assuch: feeding members, guarding the camp, and keeping the place spotless. Apart fromchore work and individual cleaning and washing routines, section cadres also spentsome time studying as part of their general training, as well as reading newspapers, participatingin section and camp meetings, and on rare occasions farm work on a smallplot of land that provided the camp with potatoes. Yet the rotational household choreswould be prioritized over any other type of work, and this became evident when cadreswere commanded to do work outside the camp. Duties that were not part of the sched-148


L A B O R I N G F O R C O L L E C T I V I T Yuled routines were easily forfeited and could be left behind, whereas the essential choreswere upheld as far as possible. The section on the day‟s cooking team would consequentlyalways stay in the camp, even if all other members were off for party work, andonly on one occasion did I witness a mobilization of the entire camp. This established aclear hierarchy between the daily section chores and the more nebulous activities relatedto cadre life that were not group activities or had little impact on the daily running of thecommune.If we take a closer look at the section chores, we can begin to see how it was thusnot merely because they operated through unity that this type of labor espoused an idealof samuhik but also because of the kind of products it led to, which ultimately concernedthe well-being of the community in its entirety. The role of cooking can be seento have a special role in establishing chores as a common good. Because cooking, inparticular, ended in a product that served all members (and potential guests), it came tosymbolize chores as an elementary act of gift giving. Even before settling down for themeal, the communal nature of this activity was marked by how mats were spread out onthe ground so that a circle was formed in which the diners would face each other duringeating. Rather than forming a closed circle, however, the seating always opened in ahalf-circle towards the kitchen area. It may be recalled that the cooking team, in fact,had to wait until all the others had finished before they could eat, and they would standbehind the three pots of rice, lentils and vegetables to serve their comrades their firstand second helpings. I find this arrangement quite intriguing, for while the meal, on theone hand, evidenced a sharing and coming together of the community to the extent thateveryone had to be part of a joint circle, the cooking team in fact did not partake in thefood consumption along with the rest without, however, being excluded from the circle.The cooking section was thus both outside the meal by not being able to share in itsconsumption but also inside the symbolic boundaries of the community.By serving the other household members before themselves being allowed to eat,the cooking section underlined in a very direct way that their work was done for the sakeof the camp community. Serving was ritualized with cadres lining up in an orderlyfashion for their turn and the actual act of giving was elaborated by being divided betweenthree cadres from the cooking team who served, one by one, first rice, then lentilsand finally – the most delicious part – fried vegetables or, on Saturdays, meat. Secondservings were more spontaneous, with cadres getting their refill once they had finishedtheir first portion but, as a general rule, the cooking team continued to divide their servinginto those three parts. With cooking, section labor therefore clearly ended in a productthat was a common good, and the way the team stood obligatorily ready to serve indicatesthat serving was not simply part of a duty but more akin to a gift that the section149


C H A P T E R 4could give to the others. By remaining outside the group of consumers, the cookingteam could retain a position of difference that made it possible for them to take on therole as givers and the rest as receivers, the exchange thus being made possible by momentarilyinstitutionalizing two complementary roles. This dynamic pair in the gift exchangewas underlined by other clues, such as the fact that the servers were standingwhile the rest were sitting down, thus allowing the former to remain above and, in asense, overseeing the benefiters of their gift. In a basic sense, section chores trained cadresin the value of collective work, and the ritualized gift exchange during meals was away of celebrating this central aspect of work.The cooking team‟s inclusion in the community through the open seating arrangementand the general social atmosphere surrounding eating, where everyone took part inthe small-talk and joking, however, adds another layer to the meaning of giving food asa present. Following Mauss‟ insights that exchange establishes social relations and thatgifts produce an obligation of return (1966), the food that the section team gave to theothers can be seen to reproduce the community of cadres. While giving to others whateffectively amounted to the „fruit of their labor‟, 7 the team‟s inclusion in the seating arrangementconstituted them as an essential part of the meal: they were poised visiblywithin the reciprocal relation that linked giver and receiver, the benefactor and consumer,and thus served to strengthen the idea that cadres constituted an important groupwhose existence relied on collective exchanges such as food giving and cooking. Whatcooking and eating established, I would therefore argue, was how chores were performedto please the community and they thereby became expressive of samuhik as avalue of labor, effectively linking the idea of the cadre community and the nature of collectivizedwork.Samuhik penetrated the camp as a mode of dwelling in the two ways describedhere: as a disciplined anticipation and through household chores. What one was beinggiven as labor, one gave back as a product (through labor). Cadres were offered labor –for which they had to learn to show deference – and they were taught to return this „gift‟in the ceremonial procedures of communal eating where their labor could be honored.Serving the other cadres was therefore literally an expression of revolutionary sacrifice.7 Marx comments in a footnote how the sale of labor in a capitalist economy results in the „renunciationof all fruits of labor‟ (Marx 1973:537) and ties into his general criticism of capitalismas a slave economy precisely because someone else is reaping the benefits of labor. What isinteresting about the case I present here is that, within the communist ethos of the camp, cadresmust also „renounce the fruits of their labors‟; not to an exploitative boss, however, but rather tothe community. As shall become clear later, the word „renunciation‟ is quite appropriate sincethis type of labor is experienced as a sacrifice and hence a way of freely giving, or renouncing,to the cadre community.150


L A B O R I N G F O R C O L L E C T I V I T YIt epitomized the way cadre life required preparing oneself, individually, to receive laborand to return this gift through collective household duties that served the community.In this way, laboring in the camp adopted the structure of the sacrifice and inscribedit into an ethic of collectivity, samuhikta. The collectivity, or community, was both thatwhich gave and took through collectivized labor, but because it was different from theindividual – it was somehow more than oneself and yet anticipated the self at everystage of the laboring process – a dynamic developed between self and community thatwas bound up with the notion of collective work and the idea of collectivity.If we turn now to how cadres spoke of collectivity, it is possible to show that it constitutedan essential ethic of camp life that contrasted with ideas of selfishness. I havehighlighted how samuhik symbolized an organizational cooperation and was institutionalizedin the section structure, but it had several nuances that pointed to a more profoundlink between individual cadres and the community than simply a mode of laboring.It was, for instance, common to describe how they lived together by invoking notionsof collectivity; samuhik rup ma basne – „here we live together as a collectivity‟ or„we are living like a family, collectively and united‟. More fundamentally, cadres occasionallyspoke directly of collectivity as a personal quality of the individual that wasconnected with Maoist cadreship in general and therefore a necessary requirement forsuccess.During a section meeting in which Suraj was the Vice-Commander and had beenchairing the discussion, he had for instance raised the issue of what he called, „the qualityfound in the comrade‟ – comrade being the formal way of addressing each other butone that was normally only used outside the camp. I asked Suraj what he had meant bythis since I had not actually participated in the meeting but was allowed to see his notesafterwards. He had answered that it was a way to start a discussion on different views of„what quality a communist must have‟. „Basically,‟ he had elaborated, „we believe incollectivity, but apart from that everybody must express their own viewpoint‟. Suraj explainedthat it was an indirect way of criticizing other cadres‟ behavior by making themthink about their shared values, and he felt it was an important discussion because collectivitywas such a vital aspect of their cadre lives. Collectivity was thus more than away for individuals‟ to fit into the group but pointed to the presence of a certain attitude,or even quality in Suraj‟s words, that accompanied camp life.To understand the relationship between self and collectivity, it is relevant to mentiontwo features of the camp as a site of „liminality‟ (Van Gennep 1960). One is theway it expressed an opposition to dominant society, hence allowing camp life to serve,in crucial ways, as a mirror image of how life outside it was imagined to be ordered, andthis difference was constantly marked linguistically through words such as yaha (here)151


C H A P T E R 4and bitra (inside) to delineate the cadre community whereas everyone else was simplyreferred to as bahira, outside. Second, and closely related, was the discursive and socialproduction of the camp as a homogenous space where values, work and life in generalwere shared. Nayabasti as a whole was expressive of a single, monolithic ethic in whichpositions and knowledge were differentiated but not values. This was why, for Suraj,although all cadres were „individually‟ invited to share their viewpoint on what valuesof personhood should accompany a communist, he could assume that the principle ofsamuhako was, or at least should be, shared by all. 8To be a cadre was, essentially, to live in „a collective way‟ and to be solidary withthe community. Collectivity thereby became linked with the project of constituting arevolutionary subjectivity, expressive of what it entailed to embrace a whole-timer modeof living. There was a general sentiment often evoked in speeches and during partygatherings among commoners that CPN-M cadres differed from those of rival politicalparties by being committed to the ideal of the shared community. While actual practicesof everyday solidarity were clearly not as straightforward – as Suraj‟s meeting agendainsinuated and which I explored in Chapter Three – it became an important aspect of thenormative order into which cadres had to fit and a value that therefore underpinned thecadre identity.Committing to the collective almost became a collective mantra itself. An exampleof this can be given by considering how the female cadre Ashmi made sense of her juniorsection member Banhi‟s departure from Nayabasti during June. Banhi was a relativenewcomer, a member since fall the year before, and was a rounded and good-spiritedgirl of 17 who was popular with the others, and the roof was somehow merrier when shewas on the cooking team as light jokes and hearty laughs would accompany the chore.But Banhi missed her family very much, she had told me, and she had difficulty understandingthe ideological teachings. It made her feel uneasy and insecure because she8 I shall not go into the details of the specific cultural production of this boundary between aninside and an outside of the camp but merely note some of its most salient features. For one,section cadres‟ contact with their families was dissuaded through strict rules on when leavecould be taken and this was further controlled by the dais who were the only ones to have accessto mobile phones and hence to the lines of communication. Similarly, the junior cadres were notallowed to leave the camp without the approval of one of their commanders, and this includedstrolling along the small path in front of the house. While others could enter – guests, neighbors,party members – cadres could not go out without a legitimate reason, meaning, in practice, partywork or chore-related errands. At the same time, as discussed in the previous and this chapter,practices and values of camp life were expressed as being radically different from what went onoutside the camp – its modes of relating and the ethic of communist labor – thereby discursivelyreinforcing the idea that to be a cadre was to be part of a secluded and privileged communitybased on culturally transformative values. It is in this sense that I refer to the camp as a space ofliminality, which both follows from an act of separation and assumes the character of an alterworldwhere initiates face culturally transgressive experiences.152


L A B O R I N G F O R C O L L E C T I V I T Ywas not even sure what it was that she did not properly understand. Yet, when evaluatingher decision to leave Nayabasti, Ashmi focused on Banhi‟s role in the communityand not on these two other quite obvious issues of loss of affect and confusion. Ashmiexplained:She only felt about herself, not the collective or on a long-term basis andthat is why she has gone. Her father had come here and said that if hisdaughter wished to stay then it was ok with him. But maybe later somebodymight have told him something bad about the YCL and he changed his mind… She didn't understand. There is nothing I can say. The revolution will notstop in her absence. I suggest she earns money and constructs a big house -that's fine. These things happen in revolutions: Some come and some go.It was thus Banhi‟s inability to think about the long-term struggle and activelychoose the collective that was her failure. To „feel‟ for the collective implied a focusingand was understood to be a continuous struggle and not merely a one-off decision. Laboringfor the collective implied that it should be unforced and express an active choiceto engage for the sake of the larger good and cadres should therefore be committed tothe community since it was no use having cadres that were not interested in participatingin the life of the camp. As such, it was a commitment that needed to be regeneratedall the time, and when cadres were unable to renew the spirit of collectivity, they werelikely to lose faith and fall away.What I think emerges quite forcefully from this discussion is that collectivity wasnot simply a principle of labor or life in the camp but much more fundamentally revolvedaround a struggling self. What stands on the other side of this collective self? Aself that clearly does not struggle and therefore one that easily becomes a victim ofdominant social values. Such a „relaxed‟ self that does not struggle for the collectiverisks becoming swartha, selfish, and this was exactly what Ashmi indicated of Banhi.Although she mentioned that Banhi did not focus enough on the collective and that herfather may have called for her, she also added that, „I suggest she earns money and constructsa big house‟ - a suggestion she herself must have known was quite ridiculous asBanhi came from a poor family, which was incidentally why they worked together inthe carpet factory before joining and why Banhi had not been able to attend school beyondfourth grade.Selfishness signaled the outside of the camp and was what befell ex-cadres releasedfrom the morality of collectivity. The examples cadres gave me of selfishness were mostclearly connected with money, and we could see this as an expression of their own processof becoming cadres, as discussed in Chapter 2. Money was therefore an issue thatsignaled the split between the life cadres had led before and their current occupationand, as if to drive this point home, the work cadres did for the party was not remunerat-153


C H A P T E R 4ed financially - they only received 500 Rupees to cover their use of hygiene products,which they had to purchase themselves. The point was simply that cadreship should notbe based on an economic relationship – referring back to Marx‟s criticism of enslavedlabor – but also that working for the community had to be an active commitment to aradically different principle of organizing life and conceptualizing work. Sacrificingone‟s salary and thereby one‟s economic enslavement to a different ethos was thereforea necessary „initiation‟. But this sacrifice of a salary also constituted a shift in the relationshipwith the self. From being able to fulfill one‟s desires of entertainment, of tastyfood, of traveling, of building houses and engaging in gratifying relationships – all thethings connected with an „outside life‟ – one needed to become a collective personwhose selfish self did not stand in the way of a commitment to the common struggle ofrevolution.This meant that leaving the party was more than a change of interest; it was seen asa fall, a moral degradation. I think this is one reason why many of the cadres who leftchose to flee without informing the leaders, or would come up with an excuse such ashaving to attend to family matters and promising that they would come back – whichthey never did. It was simply too embarrassing to admit. For example, Tara, a stout andfunny Tamang of 18 who often entertained with detailed stories from his year in thecamp, had come under increasing pressure from his family to settle down and marry alocal girl in his village. After the Dashain holidays in late September when I had accompaniedhim and several others back to their village in Makwanpur, his family‟s expectationshad become very vociferous and after returning to Kathmandu he had beenthinking more and more about building his house, which was the first step towards gettingmarried. Tara was very perplexed about his options; he wanted to continue in theparty but found it impossible to reconcile his family‟s expectations with his currentcommitment. Ideally, he told me, he would like to become a PT, part-timer, so that hecould also take time out to work on his plot of land, but when I suggested that he ask theparty for permission to be transferred to PT, he brushed it off immediately, saying thatothers would then think that he had been punished.As suggested by Tara, simply by leaving the camp – where one was fully engagedin the revolutionary struggle – was to be partially removed from the ideal of the collectiveand could be used as a punishment. Selfishness was thus connected to life outsidethe camp and particularly outside the party. It stood as the opposite of what camp lifesignaled, which was a lifestyle that prioritized the community. By contrast, to live in thecamp was automatically to be a collectivized self. It is possible to think about samuhik,the collective, then, in relation to the sacrifice that cadres perform. In his work on sacrificeand violence, Maurice Bloch has described how initiation rites of youth into adults,154


L A B O R I N G F O R C O L L E C T I V I T Yin particular, often involve a dynamic between two opposing life forces of the community(Bloch 1991). On the one hand, there is vitality, and this is often connected to natureand, indeed, to youthhood itself. For the Dinka, for instance, it is nature, in the formof cattle, that symbolizes vitality and in order for youth to be initiated into manhood,they must „kill‟ this element of animality within them in order to prepare themselves toreceive the wisdom of adulthood, that which separates humans from animals. In theDinka case, this transcendent substance is Speech, the speech of the forefathers, whichis eternal and therefore regenerative of the human spirit. I think collectivity attained thesame quality of transcendence with regard to cadres‟ sacrifice as does Speech for theDinka. It stood opposed to selfishness in the same way that Speech does to Vitality becauseboth are constitutive of humanity but, in order to attain a „higher level‟ of being –to paraphrase Mao‟s expression of the role of practice – collectivity must be allowed to„kill‟ selfishness, understood as desires of the self. Selfishness links humans to their animality,and „earning money‟ and „thinking about oneself‟ are seen as almost instinctualdesires of a life outside the camp. Collectiveness, by contrast, has a transcendent qualitywhich symbolizes the eternal revolutionary struggle, and describes the ideal quality ofthe revolutionary just as Speech is an indicator of wisdom and age for the Dinka.In this optic, revolutionaries emerge as purely collective beings, and it is thereforeswartha, selfishness, which cadres have to sacrifice in this process. Reminiscent of aspace of liminality during initiation (Van Gennep 1960), Nayabasti was the stage inbetweenthe old and transformed self, where transcendent being – here read as samuhikta,collectivity – was revealed to the aspirants. It was thus through their lives as cadresin the camp that they had to learn to become the collective beings required of cadres; thebeing that constituted their promised humanity. As an expression of revolutionary subjectivity,the collective self emerges with the sacrifice of selfishness. It is here that theelement of labor is crucial. It was labor – particularly through household chores – thatallowed the initiators to travel from selfishness to collectivity, to become, as it were, theperfect revolutionaries. In other words, it was selfishness as one part of a moral personalitythat had to be addressed by chores in order to attain another, more desirable, personalquality connected with a mature political being.CHORES AS REVOLUTIONARY LABORIn this final section, I shall explore the relationship between community chores and revolutionarysubjectivity by tracing how mundane labor points beyond the camp, allowingit to represent the struggle of a revolutionary subject and not just of an inconspicuoushousehold servant. One of the great paradoxes of chores is that while they purport to155


C H A P T E R 4bring about a party cadre who works on behalf of the community, it is all performedwithin the spatial and temporal closure of the camp. What is so special about the collectivitywhich labor makes possible that it can transcend the multiple boundaries of camplife and turn everyday servility into a sacrifice for janata, „the people‟? To explore these,largely symbolic, connections beyond the camp, in what follows I provide a discussionof the role of the cleaning chore as a practice with political overtones and then returnto the concept of labor with the help of Hannah Arendt.Chores can be seen as a heterogeneous site for cadres‟ apprenticeship into experiencedactivists and while, on the one hand, it teaches newcomers to labor around theclock for the benefit of the community through continuous and disciplined labor, on theother, it integrates them into the party world by playing on the links between the campas a community and the CPN-M‟s enormous cadre network. Contrary to what we mightexpect, the camp did not constitute a special community for its members. For cadres, theboundary of the community was not the camp but the party, and it was as Maoist cadres,karyakarta, that they introduced themselves, and it was the party which assigned cadrestheir positions and identities as maobadi – not the YCL and definitely not the smallcamp unit. Chores therefore reproduced not only the small camp community but one‟sparty identity as a cadre, and this can be exemplified through an analysis of how cleaningreplayed important political ideals of Maoist notions of revolutionary behavior.Unlike cooking, cleaning was an „easy‟ chore. It did not take very long to finish,and not all members of a section needed to be activated to clean the two bathrooms andsweep the floors. It did not therefore rely on teamwork to the same extent as cooking,and there was no ritualization by which cadres served up the product of their labor as a„gift‟ to the camp. Does this mean that cleaning was not performed for a collective, witha collective in mind? I think this would be a rash interpretation. Cleaning was muchmore comprehensive than cooking in that it encompassed all areas of the camp, could beperformed throughout the day, and was closely related to both personal hygiene and therequirement for keeping the camp tidy and office-like with personal belongings hiddenfrom view. It was therefore part of a general effort at instituting an order on camp life –to make it better resemble an office but also, I argue here, to facilitate an experience ofthe camp as more than a space for itself.This constant presence of cleanliness and order with regard to the floor starts to becomeinteresting when compared with the centrality of the floor to camp life. In bothNayabasti and the second camp they relocated to after June, all work, and indeed cadrelife in its entirety, was conducted on the floor, since there was only a single table usedfor camp‟s computer in Pradeep‟s room and a few plastic chairs that were rarely used.Consequently, there was no difference in this regard between holding a meeting, study-156


L A B O R I N G F O R C O L L E C T I V I T Ying, cleaning, cooking, watching TV or sleeping - they were all conducted on the floor.This was undoubtedly part of the point of the camp as a whole: it was a democratic gesturein correspondence with the emphasis on equality between members irrespective oftheir hierarchical position, so that everyone would be seated on the same level. Thefloor was one of the symbolic operators of „sameness‟ of the community of party cadres.Whereas floor life was likely an outcome of the pragmatics of life in an underfundedorganizational department – i.e. there was simply no money to procure chairs – therole of the few chairs indicates that the distinction between an elevated and a floor positionwas not arbitrary and played a part in delineating the boundaries of the community.I particularly felt the way elevation signaled sameness when it was used „against‟ me byPradeep. His room was the only one that did not correlate with the rest of the camp‟slayout: he had a permanent mattress as a bed; a small shelf for his books and other privatebelongings; there was a table with the camp‟s only computer and three plasticchairs that were occasionally offered to guests - this was, after all, an institutionalizedway of signaling respect and hierarchy, at least in Kathmandu and in the official politicaland ministerial offices. When I was invited into Pradeep‟s room, he routinely offeredme the chair although he would himself be seated on his bed, and I remember howI loathed being put in this position because it signaled a distancing that seemed to boosthis authority rather than diminish it. The gesture both managed to signal the obvious„you are not one of us‟, and the much more critical „you belong to the old power structure(a doctoral student from a university in a „capitalist‟ country) while here I amamong the common people, a mere servant, and our fight will never become yours‟. Iwas, fortunately, not the only one using the chairs as other senior members of the CPN-M were happy to recline in them when visiting the camp leader, and it might be that Iwas reading my own othering into a harmless gesture. Nonetheless, on the day of myofficial departure from the camp, Pradeep asked me to sit directly facing him on the bedand, looking intensely at me, he conceded: „Of all the cadres here, you are probably themost disciplined…‟This suggests that there were conflicting ways of signaling respect. The chair waspart of a more traditional script that linked power and status, whereas the floor drew onthe camaraderie of guerilla warfare. By extension, being on the floor was automaticallyto be close to the common man, and hence „the people‟, or janata. Being on the floorwas both an exercise in humbleness, and it could be read as a clear political alliance; itwas symmetrical with the camp perspective of cadre life – that the work of those whostruggle on behalf of the poor must also be located at the same level of their existence.Thus, politicians (and foreign researchers) may be sitting above „us‟ – the practice of157


C H A P T E R 4floor life seems to suggest – and they are used to such signs of respect, but „we‟ – thecadres of the revolution – cannot afford such a distance. We must be (seated) where thepeople are (located).Discipline was, then, also about being able to live on the floor, and this should betaken in its double meaning: as an exercise in the physicality of life on the ground, andas a metaphor for the „bases‟ of society where life is defined by simplicity. One of Pradeep‟sfavorite sayings about camp life was „simple living but high thinking‟, effectivelypairing the daily grind of chores and non-spectacular existence with political utopia.Sweeping performed the symbolic role of ridding the ground (the space of cadre life) ofits dirt, turning the floor into the cleanest position to be living (and speaking) from; itwas equivalent to taking the perspective from the floor, with all its symbolic baggage ofrepresenting the people‟s true voice and so on.Marxian labor, as discussed, was at the heart of the human endeavor to objectify theworld, and thereby emerge from it and eventually transform it: to distinguish man fromhis animality, as it were. The Brazilian Marxist, Paulo Freire, has elaborated on thisprinciple through his notion of praxis. In praxis, labor is both action and reflection at thesame time, and this formulation negates a distinction between the leader as the thinkerand the follower as the doer, for the revolutionary must be capable of both activities atonce (Freire 2000:126). Cleaning, I suggest, can also be as a praxis in Freire‟s terms. Itperforms a general role of a mental preparation, a way of positioning oneself as a revolutionarycadre. The cadre Himal expressed this clearly during the first interview I conductedwith him. Asked what his role was in the camp was,, he promptly declared: „toclean, to learn about politics, and to free the proletariat‟. What Himal seemed to be sayingin this single statement was that cleaning was a meaningful endeavor not primarilyon the level of the camp, but on the level of the revolution itself; that to clean was to beengaged in a revolution.Beyond the transcendence of collectivity, cleaning thus initiates a general discussionof how chores are revolutionary. In her study of student politics in Kathmandu,Amanda Snellinger (2007) has shown that the student organizations in Nepal are closelyconnected to their mother parties by being the stepping stones to parliamentary politics.The student unions in Nepal fight fierce battles every four years (in principle) over seatsin the Free Student Union – a position which both gives access to power and is veryprestigious. The FSU elections are huge events that mobilize support from top party officialsand are prepared several months in advance, and Snellinger argues that they canessentially be seen as singular events where one can practice for the real elections thatawait cadres when they mature in the party.158


L A B O R I N G F O R C O L L E C T I V I T YAlthough the camp seems far removed from student politics – and in many waysdecisively is – I think the „politics of the camp‟ can be compared to the political preparationssurrounding the FSU elections. Chores were also a way of practicing by linkinglabor to collectivity, and thereby to a praxis proper for revolutionaries. They are, in thisregard, both efforts at practicing the proper form that their role as representatives of thepeople should take. I think this is how we should understand Himal‟s link between„cleaning‟ and „freeing the proletariat‟. Chores are a type of politics that is performedwith the proletariat in mind (janata for the Maoists). Cadres in general understoodthemselves very literally to be delegates of the people, to be able to express their „will‟and „desires‟ as was shown in the previous chapter where the violent incident around thePashupatinath temple was „a command from the people‟. By doing chores, cadres were,in this sense, participating in a political exercise whereby their labor must be loyal to the„voice‟ and „commands‟ of the people. 9Labor as „necessity‟How is it that section cadres‟ labor, which is so „expansive‟ that it contributes both tothe entire party organization and to an imaginary relationship to the large body of commonpeople, takes place through mundane and repetitious tasks whose products disappearalmost as soon as they are produced? In other words, how can something so „solid‟as the organization and the population benefit from something as provisional as cookingand cleaning? This problematic is part of the wider question which the thesis as a wholetries to answer, namely, how the best way of serving the people‟s aspiration for a NewNepal is to be locked into a secluded space that is a deliberate effort at excluding oneselffrom the society that one claims to sacrifice for.In her essay „Labor, Work, Action‟, originally written in 1958, Hannah Arendt examinesthe nature of three different modes of human production. Labor designates thatwhich keeps us alive, that which reproduces biological life as such and „corresponds tothe biological processes of the body‟ (Arendt 2000:170). Work, on the other hand, cre-9 The elaborate system of routinized chores, sectional divisions, meetings on different levels,performance evaluations and internal hierarchies, not to mention the non-affectionate „professional‟relationships among the cadres, can be seen almost as a small parliament akin to the ParisCommune, where the working class was finally allowed to work directly for the peoplethrough delegation, or, as Marx saw it, where „the working class would run the state rather thanthe reverse‟ (in Dorn 2005). It is interesting that Amanda Snellinger uses a similar metaphor forher analysis of Nepali student unions, namely the idea that they are in a sense 'mini-publics'since they provide a 'good perspective of who is interested and can find opportunity in politics'(Snellinger 2010a:3). By contrast the camp's mode of relating to society is not as an approximatedemographic representation but in the idea of the 'vanguard', as the avant-garde representingthe interest, or, more correctly, the will of the people.159


C H A P T E R 4ates „use-objects‟ and not merely goods for consumption; it is the locus of fabricationthrough which man „becomes lord and master of nature‟, objectifying and manipulatingit to give the world stability and durability, the site of „homo faber‟ (ibid.:174). Lastly,action is that which lifts humanity into the realm of an entirely human world, where lifeis neither defined by biological necessity (labor) nor the wants and desires of „housingthe human body‟ as Arendt somewhat cryptically formulates the meaning of work. Actionis, by contrast, defined by „word and deed‟ and is like a „second birth‟ that bringsforth communal relationships. This is where we are made as individuals, where we takeinitiative and where life is given a meaning beyond its mere biological quality.Arendt‟s interpretation of this tripartite division is part of an effort to formulate apolitical ethics based on human freedom and, in her analysis, action is the only properlyfree human act because it is neither based on biological necessity nor follows an instrumentalmeans-to-an-end logic inherent in work (Yar 2005). She thus makes two relatedclaims that are of relevance here: one, that potentiality lies in praxis, not merely in contemplation– clearly an argument that rings familiar to a Marxist and Maoist ethos – andthat it is only in activity, in „vita activa‟, that this potential is properly realized, which isby contrast a move away from Marx‟s elevation of elementary, animalistic labor as thehighest mode of human existence.Work in the camp, I would argue, corresponds to Arendt‟s notion of labor. Theseare processes whose products have very little durability and the purpose of which is reproduction,although not only biological reproduction since cleaning, disciplined basnuand sentry duties refer to the camp and the party as its units. But the overriding fact thatnothing of „use-value‟ is being produced here cannot escape us. Let us return to Arendt‟sown descriptions of labor:By laboring, men produce the vital necessities that must be fed into the lifeprocess of the human body. And since this life process [...] is in itself circular,the laboring activity itself must follow the cycle of life, the circularmovement which means that the laboring activity never comes to an end aslong as life lasts; it is endlessly repetitive (Arendt 2000:170-171).Is the division of sections and their rotating schedule not a perfect example of theapplication of this requirement for repetition? It is as if, by making chores deliberatelyrepetitive, they assume a quality reminiscent of the reproduction of life itself. This interpretationis possibly only strengthened by the disappearance of the products of thelabor, the way „goods for consumption [...] are the least durable of things‟:They are the least worldly, and, at the same time, the most natural and themost necessary of all things. Although they are man-made, they come andgo, are produced and consumed, in accordance with the ever-recurrent cyclicalmovement of nature (ibid.:171).160


L A B O R I N G F O R C O L L E C T I V I T YSimilarly, chores produce nothing, except non-durable objects whose consumptionrenders them invisible and reverses their production process: once cadres have beenmobilized, their basnu discipline is rendered irrelevant, and the same logic applies, ofcourse, to the continuous labor of cleaning and cooking, which are more or less immediatelyconsumed; the sentry duty can even be seen here as a garrison guarding thehealth of the organizational body that the camp is. But once the „duty‟ is over, there areno traces of its important work except - and I think this is the clue - the continued existenceof the camp. What cadres‟ labor reproduce is the basic health, as it were, of thecamp as a body. Here, we should acknowledge the full meaning of the notion of labor,as that which produces life. It is therefore, the very beginning of the cycle of life, thebasis of the productivity of everything that comes after.In this regard, it is not irrelevant that Arendt places it at the bottom of her hierarchyof activity; it is, after all, with this kind of productivity that everything begins. The „vitaactiva‟ that comes after and fills out the span of human life with a meaning beyond itsmere existence relies, nonetheless, on this primary production of life itself. For this, weneed labor. It is, in a very real sense, the beginning. When we think of cadreship as anew kind of life, this makes sense in two ways. Cadres must learn to live all over again,and the first lesson is how to produce life, how to create the conditions upon which themeaningful activity of revolutionaries can then be built. Following this is the related organizationalhierarchy, which can also be seen to reproduce this logic in its distributionof work to different levels. The bottom of the organizational pyramid, where the campand newcomer cadres are located, should also provide the base for the work of the levelsabove it. So, if section cadres can be given the task of creating life – the task of labor –then more experienced members are free to engage in „vita activa‟, in politics, as itwere.Chore work is therefore, and quite plainly, a „necessity‟ of the Maoist revolutionaries‟commitment to change because it enables a transformation of the self and a reproductionof the party structure. In various ways, cadres indicated that they understoodtheir current life through the prism of necessity: there was the idea that joining (and sacrifice)was a „compulsion‟; there was the positive statement that life in the camp was not„free‟ like outside, i.e. „fortunately‟ not; and there was a specific rendition given by thecadre Kamal about the problem of life outside as being too „open‟. Kamal explained:Here, we are directed by the party. The work we do is based on the party‟snorms and conditions. You cannot find that outside, they are not disciplined,they have much money [...] and they have a lot of free time. If you are open(khula) like that, you cannot contribute with anything.161


C H A P T E R 4So, in order to „contribute‟, it is therefore an advantage not to be too „open‟, or - asI think of it here - to submit to the logic of necessity: that to work for the party community,to struggle for a collective self, and to ultimately do all this to redeem janata, onemust oneself renounce one‟s freedom and „openness‟. I think labor manages to establishthis link, so that by doing chores, cadres come to appreciate what it means not only tocontribute - that their labor invokes collectivity - but also what it means to do somethingthat is quite simply necessary. Section labor is necessary because the entire revolutionarypyramid, including the party organization and the idea of the people, must be reproducedin order to exist.I think we arrive here at Alain Badiou‟s crucial formulation of revolutionary subjectivityas one based on „fidelity‟. In this view, the free subject comes into beingthrough its fidelity to an Event such as the revolution, and the Event - in turn - relies onfidelity to exist (Zizek 1999). The relationship cadres establish with the collectivitythrough laboring can be seen as one of fidelity. It is „necessary‟ simply because neitherthe Event nor the Subject would exist in this mode without it. What interests me aboutthe causality in this formulation is that the road to becoming cadres passes through the„necessity‟ of labor as that which sets them free by allowing them to gain full status asrevolutionaries, sacrificing for the coming of the New Nepal etc. What labor reproducesis therefore a revolutionary body; this is the life it enables and to which cyclic activitycorresponds, like eating does to the functioning of the human body. There is thus a shiftof perspective from labor to „life‟ here. One could say that it is „life‟ which makes itnecessary for someone to engage in revolutionary reproduction and not just that the individualcadre experiences that his contribution is necessary. Necessity is outside theself, a principle that one can become loyal to, establish a fidelity towards. 10It is interesting to end by thinking about the mapping of Arendt‟s three forms of activityin cadres‟ lives. As migrant laborers, cadres were engaged in work - producingdurable objects with a use-value. This inevitably led to the formulation of a personalidentity, and this is what had to be overcome and „solved‟ through their life in the camp.Labor, by contrast, takes them back to the beginning, in a very concrete sense, and says:„Forget what you think you know about your identity. Here we will teach you about thefundamentals of life by engaging you first of all in the reproduction of a different kindof life and then, when you are ready, we will bring you directly to „vita activa‟, giving10 It is possible that the notion of necessity can be linked to Mikhail Heller's analysis of the 'nationalizationof time' in the Soviet Union. He argues that a new temporal horizon was establishedwherein citizens experienced their past-present-future in ways that correlated with theparty ideology and, as a result, accepted their party-assigned tasks as part of their outlook on thefuture (see Cheng 2009:6-7). It is the same type of inversion of causality whereby agency becomeslocated outside the self that I intend with the idea of necessity here.162


L A B O R I N G F O R C O L L E C T I V I T Yyou the ability to „do politics‟ in the streets of Kathmandu‟. This formula, then, skipswork and is this not because work has been colonized by the wrong class perspectiveand instead of fighting the battle at the level of work, it makes more sense to reeducateyouth about the essential cyclical and necessary labor of life and then bring them directlyto the „boundless‟ possibilities of action, the activity of „vita activa‟? Action, as Arendtreminds us, is „resilient‟; we can never undo what we have done, but this is also itspower. It is the place of new beginnings, of a „second birth‟. Before cadres can properlyparticipate in action, however, they must familiarize themselves with the base that is thecamp and its routinized labor.CONCLUSIONChores, I have argued in this chapter, should be seen as a type of revolutionary laborwhich – along with individual cleaning routines and cadres‟ disciplined waiting forcommands – produces an experience of collectivity among cadres and establishes asymbolic link to janata while also reproducing the party pyramid, thus rendering itselfpolitically relevant despite being conducted within the small camp community by newcomersection cadres. Camp labor, it seems, sustains cadres‟ political activism by beingturned into sacrifices for the community and a sacrifice of selfishness.Despite these connections between camp chores and political activism that I haveanalyzed here, there is an unresolved tension between the reproductivity and mundanityof cadres‟ labor and the prospective of proper political work, of action in a „vita activa‟.While the links connecting chores with politics do exist, as I have shown in this chapter,they are not particularly strong and only the idea of collectivity which integrates cadreswith the Maoist community are discursively marked. There is, then, always a risk thatchores come to be seen for what they really are: repetitive household tasks that maywell have a disciplining and re-subjetivizing effect but which by and large fall short oftransporting cadres onto the scene of politics.A notion of labor that is at odds with dominant social perceptions and ideas of collectivityin order to counter images of the selfish political parties is not only relevant forinterrogating aspects of camp life but is deeply rooted in the CPN-M‟s political visionand thereby points to broader debates about the corruption of political power and theneed for a strong leadership to steer the party through its transition to big-city politics.As a site for bringing new cadres into the party machinery, Nayabasti‟s simultaneousposition at the bottom of the organizational hierarchy and as the site of its vanguardyouth cadres attests to the difficulty in bridging these contradictory processes of publicopenness and exclusive identities in hiding. The paradox of disciplined waiting, the163


C H A P T E R 4strong organizational values associated with menial household tasks, and the ways inwhich the camp, with its cadre life, were seeking to be relevant to the party and the revolutionin ways I have analyzed here, all point to strong social and political tensions thatturned Nayabasti into not simply a bridge connecting the party and the public, but azone of tension between competing visions and political priorities. Nayabasti‟s leaderswere extremely good at subduing these ongoing processes of diversion within the partyleadership and the changing nature of public support so as to render camp life quitecalm and unarticulated, but I suspect that the processes I have analyzed here in someways reflect the institutionalization of some of these tensions – such that what wouldotherwise have passed as a period of training tends to become protracted sacrifices inthe anticipation of more meaningful political engagements.It does not matter, in this regard, exactly what the work of chores accomplishes, becauseby being a road to establish fidelity between cadres and the revolutionary „event‟,they are a way for cadres to practice what it means to sacrifice. Cadres were thus practicingthis sacrifice on each other – learning how to interact in a manner befitting thosewho lived by the principle of samuhik – and working for the collective therefore alsoserved to regenerate the community of sacrificers. While submission, as discussed in theprevious chapter, activated the sacrifice, labor – the revolutionary labor that has no endand to which one must give collectively – instantiated it; it was a way of performing thesacrifice with chores forming a basic system for teaching cadres what it meant to laborin a systematic manner for the benefit of a larger community.To a certain extent, chores allowed cadres‟ mundane everyday lives to momentarilybreak out of the confines of camp life by being rendered relevant on an organizationaland political measuring rod. But it could not resolve the paradox that signing up for anational revolution had landed cadres in the small world of Nayabasti where their primaryactivity was simply to wait for meaningful party work and organizational advancement.The next chapter investigates this paradox of cadres‟ sacrifice.164


5 WAITING FOR WORK, WAITINGAS WORKIt took several years from the cadres‟ first arrival in Nayabasti until they had advancedabove the section hierarchy. On average, cadres participated in work outside the camponce or twice a week, including party meetings. 1 The remaining time was spent in thecamp, occupied either with the variety of community chores described in the previouschapter or simply waiting. This chapter investigates what it means for revolutionary cadresto wait as a form of sacrificial practice. Waiting, I argue here, was not simply a biproductof the daily routines of camp life or a space in-between the meaningful activitiesof labor; it was in itself a type of labor, and a dominant one at that. Waiting was oneof the core activities that defined cadre subjectivity, and the question I pursue here ishow this waiting was rendered meaningful from the perspective of junior cadres. Notjust unmarked time, waiting was in itself a struggle and became an aspect of their campsacrifices because it was a way of investing oneself in the role of the cadre and enablingan exchange between junior members and their leaders. Rather than a problem to besolved, waiting thus signaled an activity that resulted in leadership and important work1 The rhythm of cadre life is divided between work outside the camp and their lives inside itssmall compound. At times when there are many party activities, they may be mobilized for severaldays in a row, whereby they get ready after dalbhat and may not be back before nightfall.During my fieldwork, March turned out to be one of the busiest months as cadres went to assistduring an international football tournament for 10 days, alternating between the sections, as wellas supporting the CPN-M student union, the ANNISU-R, in their run-up to the Free StudentElections on March 19. The following months alternated between less than one program perweek and up to two, with May being the busiest after March due mainly to the resignation ofPrachanda as Prime Minister. After June, most work died down, although there was a momentaryrevival for a couple of weeks before the month-long holidays of Dashain and Tihar whenpolitical activity came to a complete standstill. There was a seasonal rhythm to this pattern, reflectingnot the natural environment but the political one. During crisis and rapid changes, inparticular, work was more abundant than in other periods.


C H A P T E R 5and these prospects turned waiting into a productive enterprise, lifting it above boredomas it were, precisely because it pointed beyond the camp as a mode of dwelling.The discussion proceeds through five steps: I first offer a description of the everydaywaiting for leaders and how it indicates a „situational‟ waiting that requires cadres‟attentiveness towards their commanders; next I examine how cadres, in a broader sense,not only wait for leaders to physically arrive but for leadership, a promotion that givesthem increased access to party work outside the camp. The third and fourth section examinethe two types of practices that result from this dual nature of waiting for leadersand leadership, respectively, namely a disciplined waiting, on the one hand, and waitingas a preparation, on the other. The final section on waiting as sacrifice addresses theparadox of camp waiting as a precondition for – and hence as different from – partywork and public sacrifice and the challenges to political activism that this leads to.WAITING FOR LEADERSCamp life was one long waiting for outside work. After several days without any activities,I was the first to get restless: „Why aren‟t we going out? When will we be leaving?‟„It will come,‟ I was told, meaning a command (nirdeshan) from the party leaders. „Butwithout a command, we cannot move. We are waiting for the leaders to order us.‟ So,wait we did. The camp had enough rooms so that cadres could choose whether to waitin solitude or hang out in the common areas. Pratap often sat in his section room readingor writing in his small notebook and sometimes Kamal or Bibek would do the same, reflectingtheir interest in the educational literature. Most were not occupied with readingdespite the fact that there were several books available. Ashmi and the other female cadresmostly sat in their own separate room, only to leave when occupied with a householdchore. In the TV room, several cadres could often be found watching Hindi seriesor wrestling matches although this did not seem to make the room any livelier than theothers. Santosh and Tara were often on the balcony or the roof, silently watching thestreet below.It is hard to describe this scene. It was as if nothing was happening but this is, ofcourse, a very imprecise rendition as several small things were going on all at once: sitting,reading, watching, even sleeping. What seemed to identify these activities was rathersomething else. They felt subdued, as if we were inside a space ship where socialrelations had become mechanized and we had difficulty in speaking and hearing eachother because of the thin air. Social interaction was sparse. It was there when needed,when a section needed to coordinate work, when clarifying a word in the newspaper,when looking for someone. But there was little spontaneous activity - commenting on166


WAI T I N G F O R W O R K , W A I T I N G A S W O R Kwhat happened on the TV for instance - and when cadres talked among themselves, itwas in low voices and preferably sat apart in a section room. Moving around in thecamp also seemed limited. When I arrived from outside, striding through the corridorsand opening doors to see who was here and what they were doing, I felt a great contrastbetween my restless activity and the cadres‟ silent and patient stillness. Movement wasminimal. Cadres would not wander around the camp and would just sit all day in thedifferent rooms, now and again alternating between them as they shifted from watchingTV to reading or sleeping. Even the cooking team managed without too much talking,although this did constitute something of an exception to the dominant pattern of socialitywhereby words and activities were rarely shared and cadres simply seemed to be engagedin parallel activities; they were all doing similar things but in isolation unless activelyengaged in a cooperative chore.One particular effect of this stillness was a penetrating drowsiness that engulfed theentire camp, at least between the two dalbhat meals when leaders were away and cadreswere left to themselves. It was a kind of sleepiness that was more pronounced than I hadobserved in any other social setting in Kathmandu. This is perhaps best illustrated bythe effect it had on one of my assistants. He was caught in this drowsy web and inspiredto take naps with the cadres so that we had to put a hold on the interviewing until he hadrested a bit. „I am so tired, Dan,‟ he would complain. On one occasion, he even fellasleep while he was translating during an interview, and after that we had to make surewe were sitting in the middle of the room when we wanted to stay awake rather thanleaning against the wall, as it was too inviting a pillow.Time in the camp was thus suffused with a drowsiness that was marked by littleverbal interaction and a profound stillness in physical movement as well. Cadres foundtheir own rhythm of waiting. For some it revolved around the Hindi movies, some triedto fill out time by studying, others watched neighborhood life, some spent the waitingtime with extra cleaning and most took naps during the day. But unlike social milieuswhere people have varied functions that carry their own tasks (see for instance Tan2009), apart from the rotating schedules there was no difference in how the cadres couldwait. Since they were all functionally equal and part of one collectivity, waiting was thesame for everyone.When work arrived, it formed a stark contrast to the stillness of waiting. From thelow position in the party hierarchy cadres inhabited, commands always seemed to comeas a surprise. The flow of information from top to bottom was such that ordinary cadreswere the last to be told about an upcoming event - ideally only the moment they wereneeded - because constant revisions to schedules due to suddenly shifting political prioritiesand the great number of cadres, from many different fronts and localities that need-167


C H A P T E R 5ed coordination, made larger party events a logistical nightmare. Even though cadresmight have been told that they were possibly going out later in the day or sometime duringthe week, the actual moments they were called for came very abruptly.While waiting in our different ways, for example, a senior leader would open thedoors to the different rooms and call on cadres to get ready and come down in front ofthe camp as soon as possible. It did not matter whether cadres were sleeping, watchingTV or writing a revolutionary poem, within a couple of minutes they had changed theirclothes, put on their running shoes, and were standing ready in their sections outside thehouse. I often had my interviews interrupted in this way. When the command arrived,cadres would get up in the middle of their sentence, quickly excuse themselves and prepareto leave. These moments were always hectic: with dressing up in their uniforms,with the Section Commanders trying to grasp what the plan would be and pass on theinformation to their sections, with the lack of clarity regarding who would be stayingbehind to guard the camp and cook, of whether to bring party flags or not, of the natureof the program and which slogans to be shouting. And Pradeep, busier than ever, wouldbe non-stop on the phone.The characteristic rhythm of camp life therefore took the form of long, slow hoursof passing time with sudden tempo shifts when one of the leaders returned and ordered aswift departure. This pattern of work-waiting-work repeated itself throughout the day,throughout the week and throughout the year. Waiting was therefore not an isolatedphenomenon but an integrated part of cadre life that occupied the spaces between eventsoutside the camp.This kind of waiting has been described by Peter Dwyer as „situational‟ in contrastto what he calls an „existential waiting‟ (Dwyer 2009). Situational waiting is an expressionof social engagement, it is a type of waiting that is distinctly of the world and notjust a personal experience. What most distinguishes the situational from the existentialis therefore that the former is inherently relational, meaning that it is embedded in socialrelationships. Dwyer gives the example of a rock climber who is belaying, i.e. holdingthe rope that secures a fellow climber on the cliff. A climber waiting for belay is highabove the ground, fully equipped and waiting for her turn to climb. She is joined by abelay rope to a climber above her who needs to finish his section of the climb and securehimself before indicating that it is the other‟s turn to climb (ibid.:18). Dwyer‟spoint is that this type of waiting designates a very active engagement with the world becauseit entails the physical belaying of the climbing partner above and an attentivenessto the subtle communications via the rope since they cannot see each other. Waitinghere demands the belayer‟s constant focus and participation; it is situational.168


WAI T I N G F O R W O R K , W A I T I N G A S W O R KThe metaphor of the rock climber nicely captures the way cadres are tied to theirleaders. There is a similar type of bond between them, expressed most vividly in the hierarchicalstructure that demands cadres be constantly attentive of their commander‟scommands (see Chapter 3). Leaders are also, in a sense, invisible since they are not presentin the camp most of the time and, when they suddenly do arrive, cadres must beable to respond with proper deference. The leaders‟ absence does not therefore result inlaxness as the cadres‟ constant readiness to serve functions like a belay rope betweenthem and their commanders. What connects the absent leader from the present cadrehere, though, is not a rope but a telephone. There were almost always some leaders presentin the camp, at a minimum a vice-commander but most often one of the intermediateleaders above section structure as well. They interacted in a non-hierarchical waywith cadres during periods of waiting, though, because they did not have separate sectionrooms; they stayed on the roof or in the TV room when at home. One call fromPradeep or Nischal was enough for all this to change. The erstwhile „waiting‟ leader,Marut for instance, would now be asked to mobilize the cadres and he came to embodythe authority of the absent leader, thus activating the „invisible‟ connection to work. Cadreshad to be attuned to this possibility of work arriving suddenly and even withoutanyone physically returning. It was in this way that the waiting was situational; it wasembedded in the hierarchical relationship between cadres and leaders that required theformer to be constantly alert to the channels of communication that leaders utilized insignaling a change from waiting to work.Yet, there is clearly a limit to the climbing metaphor. The physical attentiveness ofthe belayer is intense and not necessarily more relaxed than for the one leading – she isthe one who must be attentive to communication from above whether this entails theexpected call that her partner is secured, or the more dramatic situation in which somethinghas gone wrong. But cadres‟ waiting – though clearly situational – was differentlypassive when they were not occupied with chores. Not relaxed, but passive. Cadresseemed, as I explained, to withdraw into their own worlds and to wait by themselvesrather than in unison. Here, we can revisit the distinction between waiting on and waitingfor that Monica Minnegal invokes in her essay on hunting in Papua New Guinea(2009). Every year, the Kubo people wait for „tree-leaf‟ when the trees drop not onlytheir leaves but also the acorns on which pigs feed and grow fat. This signals the start ofpig hunting. But when is this time? Trees are always dropping their leaves, and theamount of acorns may vary from season to season, so there is no way of knowing in advancewhen the time is ripe. So the Kubo wait and watch, attentive to the signs aroundthem, both those of the forest and the activities of their fellows hunters, as one man‟sresolve to go hunting may lead others to follow. In this, the Kubo hunters are strategi-169


C H A P T E R 5cally waiting. They are waiting on in a way similar to a waiter waiting on a customer,attentive to his/her needs before they become demands. Such a waiting revolves aroundchoosing the appropriate moment to act, waiting for the „optimal moment‟ and entails,Minnegal explains, „an intense engagement with, and attention to, the present‟(ibid.:91).Cadres wait for and not on. They are like the customer in the restaurant who mustremain passive until the waiter arrives. Their waiting is a kind of longing that is „orientedto an imagined future‟ (ibid.:90). Until a leader commands them, cadres must wait, itis nothing they can decide and there is no „optimal moment‟ that they are waiting for.Another way of expressing this is that waiting here designates a lack of initiative becausewhile they must be attentive, the initiative to transform waiting into work is nottheirs.WAITING TO BECOME LEADERSThere is a further link between cadres and leaders which influences the quality of waitingin the camp. Eventually, cadres become leaders, and this inscribes a kind of waitinginto camp life which can be thought of as „systematic‟ because it is disciplined and teleological;i.e. the prospect of leadership is already inscribed into cadres‟ waiting. In hisintroductory comments to the edited volume „Waiting‟, Ghassan Hage notes that differencesin waiting are not merely individual but „are also differences in the way waiting ispresent systematically in society‟ (Hage 2009a:2). Hage discerns three perspectives onthis systematicity that express the „politics‟ of waiting: 1. who must wait; 2. what waitingentails; 3. how to organize waiting into a social system. Cadres‟ waiting for work ispart of a larger organizational cycle whereby work is linked to leadership status and thisturns cadres into the category of personnel in the YCL who are designated to wait. Letme try to flesh this out by showing the way cadres‟ advancement is linked to access towork outside the camp.In Chapter 3 I explained how cadres were in an apprentice relationship to theircommanders, being given responsibilities above their immediate rank to teach them thecraft of commanding through active participation. This system worked between cadresand leaders as well. Cadres who had attained commander level were given tasks outsidethe camp in the neighborhood. One of the crucial distinctions between leaders and cadres,as previously explained, was that the leaders‟ work took place outside the campwhereas cadres worked in the camp itself. The cadres were therefore the ones who hadto wait while their leaders were busying themselves with work. But as cadres advancedin the internal camp hierarchy, they were gradually given assignments outside the camp170


WAI T I N G F O R W O R K , W A I T I N G A S W O R Kreflecting their personal qualifications: as an FGL (Force Group Leader, the positionbelow Vice Commander in the section hierarchy), Tara for instance had been asked totalk to some of the local party volunteers who „risked going backwards‟ and his job wasto „motivate‟ them just as an FGL would with regard his own section cadres. Vice andSection Commanders were, in turn, given areas of responsibility and contact personsthat they were in charge of. After he had become an SC, Rohit thus had to rendezvousregularly with a local YCL supporter who had been asked to procure new members, andit was Rohit‟s task to carry this through and report back to his seniors in Nayabasti. If awhole section was needed for a local job, such as supervising the building of a road orcollecting donations, it was also often enough for the SCs to lead the cadres.This systematic evolution of expertise and status went hand in hand with the party‟sofficial recognition of cadres‟ seniority by granting them membership status in respectivecommittees. The commander position marked the shift at which cadres became relevantfor the party machinery, and already in becoming FGL, the party would usuallyinclude cadres in the organizational structure. Cadres would often introduce themselvesto me by referring to their committee status – „I am now an ACM‟ (Area CommitteeMember) and this was seen as their official title and position in the party. The partymeetings that followed from their committee memberships were another way of mobilizingapplicable cadres to activity outside the camp; Area Committee Meetings, for example,were held monthly and, with more committee memberships, cadres would beallowed to leave the camp more often. By giving cadres increasing responsibilities outsidethe camp, a differentiation was made between newcomer cadres and the more seasonedones; the latter were simply closer to work and had less waiting to do. This way,work served to transgress camp life and its waiting, the legible activity which propelledcadres back into society.The transparency of this systematic advancement through work connects leadersand cadres in a more fundamental way than the concepts of „situational waiting‟ and„waiting for‟ encapsulate. To return to the metaphor of the climbing couple, cadres andleaders are in fact tied together in a much more direct way than I described above. It isnot simply that the rope is a medium of communication, one that keeps cadres alert andinscribes their waiting into social relationships. The rope between the two categories ofpersonnel also facilitates the guidance of the cadre in his or her personal ascent towardsleadership. The leader cannot, of course, pull the cadre up, in much the same way thatclimbers cannot, due to the elasticity of the rope – I am a climber myself and am painfullyaware of this limitation. The rope does not offer the possibility of laziness and istherefore a very apt metaphor for CPN-M‟s concept of cadreship – a continuous strugglethat each individual cadre must be willing to perform. Cadres have to negotiate the171


C H A P T E R 5terrain by themself and perform their tasks properly in order to ascend. However therope metaphor also illustrates that there is an expectation that the climb does resolve thedistancing between the leader and the common cadre, i.e. that it does in fact lead to ahigher position in the hierarchy.What cadres are waiting for are therefore not the random actions of an externalagent when considered over a long period. To wait for a leadership position is to expectthe natural development of professional relations within the party, relative of course toone‟s „investment‟. Waiting is not merely attentive, it is also full of anticipation. Surajhad felt this very keenly when it failed to materialize the way he had expected. He hadfled from the camp for two months the year before I met him, the only case I heard ofamong the Nayabasti members, and part of his punishment had been a demotion froman FGL to an ordinary cadre upon his return. The embarrassment of having to return,because others might think him a coward – as a person that could not stomach the strugglenecessary to cadre life – was not, however, his major concern: „I feel quite sad,‟ heexplained, „because the people I used to command are now commanding me, and thismakes me feel quite bad.‟Our conversation on this issue took place in the middle of June and talk of the secondoffice and the possibility of experienced cadres getting leadership positions wasalready flourishing. Suraj was certain that he would be one of these and was alreadycomparing himself to the senior camp members above the section structure, even if hewas only an FGL. „I will be doing the same [as them] but my area [of responsibility] hasnot been decided yet. I might become a vice-president or a general secretary but anyhowmy position will be high.‟ Suraj‟s excitement was evident and he admitted that he hadwaited for this opportunity for a long time because he felt that, compared to others, hehad a lot of experience. Yet, when the decision did arrive, Suraj was only promoted thelogical step from FGL to VC and, not long after, Suraj became „distracted‟, as he himselfexplained, by a love affair that eventually led to him breaking with the YCL towardsthe end of September (see next Chapter). It is possible that we should read intohis new love affair, which started less than a month after his demotion, a disillusionmentat the speed of his ascent. Suraj felt that he did in fact deserve a higher position becausehe had already struggled so much and possessed the necessary experience.Suraj‟s waiting turned into „stuckedness‟, though not in the heroic sense describedby Ghassan Hage (2009b) but rather in the disappointment that Henrik Vigh highlightsfor youth in Guinea-Bissau who have very few livelihood options and are perpetual losersin leaders‟ power-games (2006). This shows the flip side of the systematicity inherentin this waiting. As Suraj had broken away from the relationship between cadres andleaders that designated the first as apprentices who slowly but steadily advanced under172


WAI T I N G F O R W O R K , W A I T I N G A S W O R Kthe guidance of the latter, he could not expect to suddenly „jump the queue‟ just becausehe was more experienced. Waiting was hard work, and Suraj had tried to dodge it (for aperiod).DISCIPLINED WAITINGThis brings in the question of discipline. We can see how the politics of waiting for theYCL cadres in Hage‟s formula clearly designate them as waiters (in contrast to leaders)– this was his first point - and as waiters because they are in the process of becomingleaders – his second point. Cadres‟ waiting thus points towards leadership. But how is itsystematized? Life in the camp is subject to the requirements of proper behavior, ofwhich some aspects are social and others personal. I have dealt with the requirements ofrespectful interaction and the next chapter will detail the more personal aspects of thisinstitutional order. Waiting is subsidiary to the same principles – of submission, collectivity,morality. Just as there are no private spaces in which to practice another noncadremorality, there is also no heterogeneity of waiting spaces. Waiting, as I explained,is the same for everybody, all must comply with its regimental character.I believe this to be a distinct feature of cadres‟ waiting because it makes a widerange of cultural practices normally associated with waiting unavailable – particularlyfor youth. From his ethnography in North India, for instance, Craig Jeffrey (2010)shows how middle-class youth must endure a waiting in the educational system as partof their parents‟ largely mistaken strategy of reconfiguring the cultural capital of theirclass position from land to education. Young men have been placed in the educationalsector as a result of their parents‟ „waiting strategy‟ to reorganize economic dominancein the province, a situation that has not led to career moves but to a lingering in thecampus. These offspring therefore end up as educated but unemployed youth in a positionthey refer to as „timepass‟, a reluctant suspension of their career progression into akind of temporal abyss where they have too much time on their hands and struggle tofill it in meaningful ways. All the strategies of timepass that Jeffrey so well describes –hanging out at culturally important spots, becoming „fixers‟ in the political economy ofthe campuses – are completely absent from the Nayabasti camp. There is no room forstrategies here. 2A similar analysis could be conducted with regard to youth in Nepal as a period ofwaiting, as well exemplified by Mark Liechty‟s and Amanda Snellinger‟s ethnographies2 Jeffrey‟s ethnography fits well with Hage‟s idea of stuckedness as the new form of heroism.The Jat students Jeffrey worked with also developed a vocabulary of heroism such as patience,male sociability and moral superiority that deflected criticism of idleness (ibid.:98).173


C H A P T E R 5of middle-class identities in Kathmandu (Liechty 2003; 2009; Snellinger 2009; 2010b).Yet, as middle-class youth, the waiting described in these ethnographies – consumptionand career politics, respectively – is not available to people from the socio-economicbackground that YCL cadres have. Instead, young people without access to money orcareers might engage in one of the more popular forms of „timepass‟ in Nepal that iscalled ghumnu, wandering; a lighthearted roaming around the landscape in which it isnot the destination that is the goal but the very act of engaging in walking without havingone. Since walking is a very profound aspect of life in the hills, where transportationalmost always involves long stretches of negotiating the steep terrain on foot, walkingas ghumnu turns this strategic aspect on its head. What luxury to be able to walk withouthaving to think about where one is going. 3For cadres, however, ghumnu was connected with outside life, although it was notnecessarily seen to be morally regrettable, not „selfish‟; it was just – of course – too„open‟ since it was deliberately unfocused. Before I went with the cadres to their villagein Dashain, this was almost all they could talk about. How much we were going toghumnu. 4 But this was not available in the camp, and neither were other types of leisure– reading magazines, surfing the Internet, listening to music, chatting on the phone, eatingsnacks, visiting friends and family, going to movies and many other indulgencesthat reeked of entertainment or were simply seen as unproductive idleness. 5 Cadres wererestricted to waiting in the camp and, furthermore, to doing so in the rather disciplinarystyle that camp life required.The unavailability of popular forms of waiting for cadres and the expectancy that itshould be disciplined, to be „always ready‟, gave rise to a different set of activities thatencapsulated waiting. Waiting was never simply an „empty‟ practice but part of the repertoireof camp life. I draw here on John Cash‟s analysis of Beckett‟s play „Waiting forGodot‟, which describes the nebulous waiting for a man named Godot whom the protagonistsare not even sure actually exists (Cash 2009). Cash superbly links the waitingof the main characters with the unavailability not only of the object of their waiting –3 A typical description of where one‟s home village is located goes something like this: „twodays by bus, and then tree days on foot‟.4 The other thing, of course, was food. Tara was very excited about getting to taste dhedo again– a thick white paste of ground corn similar to the Italian polenta served with a hearty meatsauce - since he had not been home for seven years, and his enthusiasm caught on: „Just waitand see Dan. You will love it‟. I did.5 Apart from the TV – which was never a whole-day indulgence anyway - I was probably theclosest cadres came to leisure but the problem was, of course, that it was also strenuous to talkto me because I asked them complicated questions about their lives. So while it could be „fun‟ tobe interviewed, cadres also needed to concentrate – a requirement that their waiting otherwisedid not include. Attentive, yes. Vigilant, maybe. Focused, no.174


WAI T I N G F O R W O R K , W A I T I N G A S W O R KGodot – but also of the moral fundament upon which their repertoires rest. The protagonistsmust constantly remind themselves and each other what they are waiting „for‟ (not„on‟) because they continuously forget and, with the simultaneous instability of the„ground‟ of their waiting, all they have left are their repertoires; empty gestures of relationalitythat nonetheless work because they set their bodes in motion:„This is the cultural repertoire [they] have inherited, an impoverished repertoirethat no longer coheres and yet is a principal resource upon whichsociality must draw. Apart from this cultural resource, all they have are therhythms and routines of their bodies in space and time and the denuded naturethat confronts them (ibid.:29-30).I suggest that something similar can be said about the cadres‟ waiting. It is definedby a cultural repertoire that sets it apart from a non-cadre waiting and is in this sensealso torn from conventional modes of waiting for young people in Nepali society. But itwould be mistaken to think of this repertoire as „impoverished‟ since it abides by itsown logic, which is the teleology of leadership and the disciplinary requirements of cadrelife. What I think Cash‟s formulation nicely captures is the way in which therhythms and routines of the characters‟ bodies in space and time are themselves expressiveof a mode of waiting. Waiting here is a repertoire, a way of doing things, a culturalpractice.This offers an opportunity for analyzing the routinized life in Nayabasti as an essentialcomponent of waiting, as a form that waiting takes, i.e. the „social system‟ thatHage referred to. Days in Nayabasti were divided into their own routine, from the cleaningrituals in the morning, via newspaper reading on the rooftop, to phases of work, tostudying, TV watching, sleeping and so on. Day after day, this scene repeated itself,much like Godot‟s two acts in which the only thing that has changed between the firstand the second act is the apparently lifeless tree, around which the play unfolds, havingsprouted a few leaves. Thus Beckett, the analysis goes, has accomplished a play inwhich nothing happens, twice (Mercier in Cash 2009:27). Changes in Nayabasti weresimilarly subtle, indicative in fact not of change but of how the routine of cadre lifestayed the same despite individuals being promoted or leaving the party, despite the factthat someone was often on leave or away for work, and despite the relocation to a secondcamp in July. When I did not stay overnight in the camp, I would often come atsome time during the day, always being met with the same sight of a few familiar facesleaning over the roof greeting me with the CPN-M „red salute‟, Lal Salam, while theremaining cadres would linger inside occupied with their different modes of waiting:Banhi and Damini together in their rooms; Rohit with his books; Bijay leaning over theroof; Kamal and Bibek tête-à-tête. These small daily routines and scheduled behaviorskept being repeated and were very predictable. As in Godot's play, 'nothing' happened175


C H A P T E R 5repeatedly with almost imperceptible changes ensuring that, despite changes in who wasat home, waiting conformed to a recognizable systematicity. It was these routines andrhythms that defined the „cultural repertoire‟ of waiting in Nayabasti.Disciplined waiting, then, complements cadres‟ attentive waiting for work and theiranticipated waiting for advancement. It describes a form of waiting which is much morecomprehensive than the immediate „rope‟ between cadres and leaders leads us to think.Cadres‟ waiting for future leadership and the disciplinary requirements of attentivenessalso become routinized and result in a form – a cultural repertoire – that is an integralaspect of waiting.WAITING AS PREPARATIONWhat I want to explore in the second to last section is how we can understand this systematizationof waiting not merely as a passive role that cadres learn to fill but onewhich actively prepares them for leadership. The agency in this waiting is similar towhat Dwyer explains with regard to passive and active modes of situational waiting.People who sit and wait – he refers to a sculpture of women sitting „comfortably waiting‟in downtown Mesa, Arizona – may be quiescent. The contexts in which they wait,including the consequences of their waiting, Dwyer explains, may therefore differ but „itis in the frame of those contexts and consequences that they have chosen to act in theways that we observe. There is no difference in their capacity to act‟ (Dwyer 2009:23).It is this relationship between the „frame of those contexts‟ and cadres‟ „capacity to act‟that I think can be analyzed by considering the question of preparation. Cadres havemerely chosen 'passivity' – an attentive and disciplined waiting – as their mode of agency.This takes us back to the „context‟ of cadres‟ mobilization. The relationship that potentialYCL members establish with the party can be understood as a giving of theirtime to the party. The internal distinction between whole-timers and part-timers – asindicated by the term – rested on the former's ability to give themselves more fully tothe party precisely because they give more time. In this membership distinction also laya valorization; giving more time – as whole-timers did – was a more complete commitmentto the party and its struggle. This served to turn time itself into a valuable commodityin the YCL. This became especially visible among the part-timers in the area.One of them, Keshar, was a strong and outspoken man who lived with his wife and sonnot far away. He and his wife worked as painters and, though Keshar had once been awhole-timers, he had shifted to part-timer status and moved in with his family severalyears ago. Keshar was often in the camp, sharing a meal, just hanging out or helping to176


WAI T I N G F O R W O R K , W A I T I N G A S W O R Kprepare for a larger program. As the coordinator of all the part-timers in his area, he wasbusier than many others in having to juggle work, family and party activities, and it oftenhappened that he was called upon by Pradeep or another leader in the camp. In thosecases, he came immediately. He left whatever he was working on behind and then rendezvousedwith his party dais. Such a swift reaction to a leader‟s request was a verystrong value among the part-timers I spoke to, even those in higher positions. Partywork always came first and some of the newer cadres who worked as laborers on theside told me they had explained to their bosses that, if the party called for them, theyhad to leave at once.The extraordinary willingness of part-time cadres to come running whenever theywere called attests to the valorization of presence as an aspect of cadreship. There is aninteresting precedent for such an institutionalization of time in the political history ofNepal through the tradition of chakari, usually translated as sycophancy. During theRana regime, kings demanded that their subjects should show obedience by being in thepresence of the rulers on a daily basis. While this has been understood as a way for theRanas to forestall mutiny by keeping those they feared closest to the palace and hencepreventing them from conspiring, the tradition of chakari has continued as an expressionof patronage. The principal feature of chakari is simply paying extended visits andthe longer one stays the greater one‟s loyalty. The institution has also been used to passmessages and to exchange favors but the principle gift in chakari is time in its pure,empty form: the time offered does not have to contain anything else but its form, and ithas consequently been criticized for leading to passivity (Bista 1991).Cadres in Nayabasti expressed a similar attitude towards their commitment of time.They, of course, did not have to plead allegiance to an ethos of coming immediatelywhen party leaders called for them, for they were – simply by lingering in the camp –always prepared due to the discipline of basnu. What whole-timers instead articulatedwas that their very futures had been laid at the feet of their commanders, allowing thelatter to command the cadres to engage in any type of work that they saw fit; as Rohitexpressed it in the introductory quote to Chapter 4: „Whatever my party commands Iwill do. If tomorrow I am asked to go to Himal, of course I will go.‟ The cadres I interviewedabout their future prospects did not talk of what they wanted or wished for butonly about what the party (or, in some cases, the people) needed them to do. Their own„personal‟ futures were irrelevant in relation to the wider prospects of the revolutionand, because they had already pledged to give their time to this project, it was, so tospeak, out of their hands. In this way, cadres endorsed the idea that their primary responsibilitywas to supply time; how to prioritize its use was not their concern for it hadbeen submitted to authority, to commands.177


C H A P T E R 5The idea that one can merely give presence, as an empty form of time, thus correspondswith the valorization of time among YCL cadres. It shows the general institutionalizationof time as a commodity in political relations, even if the form it takes inMaoist politics differs from chakari. 6 The cadres' insistence that they contributed withtheir time, along with the hierarchy between WTs and PTs, was based on the idea thattime was the essential commodity – the social capital – that constituted WTs as morecommitted than their PT colleagues. This expresses a fundamental feature of the „socialcontract‟ of cadreship in the YCL and not only of the relationship between categories ofmembers. Young laborers‟ ability to give time was what set them apart from others whocould not or did not offer this basic commodity up unconditionally.To give time in this pure and empty form without any conditions on how it was tobe used, i.e. chakari, was also to transfer the responsibility of activity to someone else.Similar to what Dwyer claimed, cadres' chakari, or sacrifice of time, was established asa context for waiting that illustrated how time was no longer the cadres' to command; itwas now outside of themselves as an aspect of their relationship to the party. We cantherefore think of the time passed in the camp – the years of training to become a commander– as marked by another's ownership. It was not their time, and hence not theirown waiting but rather the party's they were enacting, a waiting on behalf of the party. Ithink this can be addressed as a cycle of reciprocity whereby cadres first give the partytheir unconditional time, and the party then returns this 'gift' as an extended form ofdwelling that cadres must endure before they can venture beyond the horizon of thecamp. Cadres give time, and in return they get waiting.We can now return to the case of everyday waiting. Although it is tempting to readinto this drowsy everyday a prolonged waiting that only grows more intense by beingextended for years, I think we have to look at this the other way around. Rather thanstarting from the tediousness of daily life and then watching how this turns into an evenlonger livelihood cycle, as if the latter were an extension of the first, is it not indeed becauseof the longer cycle of waiting that cadres must endure an everyday that is drowsy?It is daily life that imitates the structural condition of their waiting – a drawn out andseemingly endless sacrifice of labor (Chapter 4), time (Chapter 5) and self (Chapter 6) –and not the other way around. What the drowsy everyday seems to perform from thisperspective is merely the extension of training into a period spanning years. One can seea parallel here between the slowing down of the revolutionary struggle – into a transi-6 CPN-M cadres would reject the comparison of their own activism with chakari because thelatter can be seen as an elitist mechanism of suppression and because it promotes resignation inplace of continuous struggle and transformation. I am using it here, however, to make a pointabout the commodification of time in political relations and it is this feature that I think is comparableto present-day politics.178


WAI T I N G F O R W O R K , W A I T I N G A S W O R Ktion and into politics – and the slowing down of cadres‟ apprenticeships – into dwellingand drowsiness. The extension of work over many years shows that there is no rush tolearn to become a revolutionary, leading to a protraction of revolutionary sacrifice in thepresent. Cadres have several years in which to practice becoming revolutionaries. Besides,patience is a virtue that cadres have to learn because the revolutionary road iscrooked and complex, as cadres themselves often reminded me, and it therefore seemsprudent that the camp should teach them this lesson through a penetrating drowsiness.The waiting cadres were doing can therefore not be understood as that of impatientyouth anticipating a rise in status or access to material benefits – such a waiting had alreadybeen „parked‟ during their first pledge of submission – but as the anticipation ofyoung revolutionaries who were to be prepared for the important responsibilities behoovingwell-trained revolutionaries. Waiting itself was embedded in the ethos of revolutionarysubjectivity. As I have discussed in previous chapters, this entailed learning tostruggle, submitting to commands, to stress on the collective in both life and work, andit also involved the repulsing of selfish behavior and acquiring a new consciousness, asI shall discuss in Chapter 6. It was therefore part of the cadres‟ general commitment to arevolutionary life and required that they did never got lost in the crooked path of revolutionaryprogress; as Ashmi had said, the ability „to think on the long-term‟. This obviouslytook time. How long was someone else‟s decision.The everyday cycle of routine, with its drowsiness, was thus part of the preparationcadres went through. While labor (Chapter 4) clearly leads to a revolutionary identity,many of the petty daily routines, I would argue, can also be seen as a preparation for thecadre life that comes after the camp. Even to sleep is consequently not simply to be idle,but a way of waiting for commands, as not all disciplined waiting takes the form of sittingand looking at the door. From the very beginning, cadres had learned that sleepingwas not to be mistaken for time-off since they could be commanded out to work at anytime, even during the night, and sleeping was therefore not anti-thetical to work. 7 Instead,it can be seen as a routine that expresses some of the core skills that revolutionar-7 It was, however, a borderline case. Not sleeping vainly was also an expression of discipline,and the routine of naps took place between the two dalbhat meals that were the most relaxedperiods. It was important that cadres did not simply sleep longer in the mornings. They had toget up and show that they were ready for the day's duties. My assistant was not thought to be toovigilant in this regard, sleeping way past 7 am in the morning, even when we tried (too mildlyapparently) to wake him. Although sleep seemed to encapsulate the drowsiness of camp life andwas connected to cadre status, it was also thought to be somewhat embarrassing and when Ishowed them the pictures I had taken of them sleeping, Kamal immediately arranged for a pictureof himself sitting attentively in the room studying. Sleep somehow contradicted the requirementsof a disciplined life and the idea of hardship with which camp life was connected asdiscussed in the previous chapter. But sleep could also be seen to be making a joke of the ideaof giving time to the party, if one was just wasting it sleeping.179


C H A P T E R 5ies must learn, in this case, patience. Cleaning the floor was also a way to learn aboutstruggling, about working for collectivity and possibly also a way of confirming one‟sfaith in the revolutionary path; cooking was similarly not simply household labor: it wasrevolutionary training in collective labor – for the benefit of a community and in equalcooperation with others. Several of these ways of sacrificing oneself inside the campthat I have described can therefore simultaneously be understood as skills training, andhence as a steady preparation of themselves for a more direct engagement with revolutionarywork. 8The everyday drowsiness, its small routines, and the chores that cadres had to performwere all part of the longer cycle of waiting through which cadres became qualifiedto leave the camp. It was thus ultimately because of cadres‟ willingness to sacrifice timethat this prolonged dwelling was tolerated. In addition, time spent in the camp expressedmany of the values connected with revolutionary subjectivity – patience, renunciation,collectivity, transformation and so on – and was therefore meaningful from the cadres‟point of view. It was this meaningfulness that I believe cadres expressed when they referredto the necessity of understanding that life for cadres was a struggle (as Ashmi didwhen criticizing Banhi for leaving) or that it entailed understanding the part (as Surajhad explained as the reason for his continued patience with camp life over others whohad recently left). These were ways of underlining the necessity of waiting in camp as atype of preparation. Waiting was part of what one had to stomach, an element of one‟sstruggle and of one‟s sacrifice.I therefore think we would be wrong in constructing this waiting as a type of boredom.I could not identify any particular enthusiasm with engaging in household work asan „escape‟ from the drowsiness connected with waiting, meaning that it was not betterto do chores than to wait. There were also a few occasions where cadres – in this caseBijay and Bibek – were criticized for feigning illness so that they could stay in the camprather than participating in a parade outside, which suggests that the camp was not automaticallyconnected with boredom. Most importantly, as I have indicated above, ca-8 The situation is not so different from the famous scene in the film „The Karate Kid‟ (1984),where the impatient teenager is ordered to paint the entire fence around the house and wax thecars before he is allowed to receive training from the old master, only to discover that the daysspent painting and waxing were already a significant part of his training. Cadres must also enduretedious and partly incomprehensible work in order to qualify themselves and, similar to thesomewhat haughty American kid, training starts with learning to obey a command, that is, withsubmission. Both must accept not only the unfamiliarity of their training ground (leading to insecurity)but also the complete authority of their new masters. Waiting is part of this relationshipof submission that starts from a very simple but authoritarian command: „Trust us to knowwhat is best for you‟.180


WAI T I N G F O R W O R K , W A I T I N G A S W O R Kdres themselves rejected the suggestion that their time in the camp was boring (borelagdaina). Instead, they expressed a belief that their camp life had a purpose, that it wasnecessary for their struggle; waiting was not idle but pointed in a direction.If we return to Hage‟s „politics of waiting‟, this perspective allows us to see waitingnot primarily as a lack of activity but as a mapping of social distinctions onto a mode ofliving; some have it, some do not and those who have it are not allowed to do with it asthey please. I think this insight is relevant for understanding YCL camps. Waiting clearlyserved to distinguish ordinary cadres from leaders and thereby confirms the principlethat it was a system of differentiation. More than simply a tool of differentiation anddiscipline, however, waiting for the cadres implied a fundamental relationship betweenthe identity of newbies and seniors. Section cadres were, in a sense, destined to wait becausethis was what their sacrifice entailed, as long as they were still under training. Inscribedinto their identity as section cadres were therefore also the conditions of theirtransformation into active leaders; that they would one day become like Marut, Nischaland even Pradeep. In the rare cases where cadres referred to their own futures within theparty, they used the other leaders in the camp as their role models: „One day, I might geta position like Marut‟ or, as Suraj had expected for his promotion, he would be getting a„high position‟ like Marut or some of the other leaders. 9Waiting was then part of the transformation cadres were going through and, becauseof the limitations on how it could be carried out and because it pointed to a futureidentity as a busy leader, it was part of one‟s moral personhood. Waiting in the rightway and for the right reasons meant acting morally and already being linked to thepromise of prestigious work – a link that was only strengthened by the hierarchical divisionof labor by which cadres with leadership responsibilities naturally became moreactive. As a result, activity was connected with leadership and passivity consequentlybecame an effect of being a cadre, which ensured that a moral teleology became inscribedinto waiting; that which leads to leadership and important work. This extendsthe analysis above, where I described how everyday petty routines could be seen asskills training. I think it is now possible to claim that it was waiting itself that constituteda type of preparation; more than simply a period of inactivity, it was in itself an elementof the training cadres were subject to. The politics of what the waiting entailed forcadres in the camp, in particular all that it could not be, underlines this point: in waiting,they were already full-blown cadres.9 The other leaders in the camp – Marut, Anil, Ganesh, Chandra – did not have any clear role inthe internal hierarchy and often ended up becoming middle-men or mirroring the roles of eachother although it seems they did serve as a body of role models for what leadership in the CPN-M entailed.181


C H A P T E R 5WAITING AS SACRIFICEWaiting, as described, implied two things: waiting for advancement and waiting forwork. Whereas the first required patience and diligence in one‟s work, the second requireda type of discipline that stipulated how one was „always ready‟ to serve. It is herewe can see the sacrificial component of waiting. On the one hand, it involves the unconditionalsurrender of time to an entity outside the self, i.e. the party, and on the other,it prescribes an extensive mode of dwelling perpetrated by drowsiness, inactivity anddiscipline. Waiting thereby becomes a site of struggle, something one passes throughnot merely by tolerating it but by complying with its disciplinary requirements. Thecamp itself describes a mode of sacrifice but the entire enterprise constituted a mode ofwaiting, a temporary phase that pointed to leadership and outside work.If, as I have argued, waiting was in itself a preparation by which one learned to actas a proper revolutionary through the requirements of discipline and labor that occupiedcadres‟ time, it suggests that waiting was part of the matrix of stillness and movementthat described the development of cadres from juniors to leaders. Attentive waiting –because it was situational and not merely experiential – took place against a backgroundof symbolic efficiency. I have touched upon this theme now and again. Nayabasti was aspace of a certainty through is discursive homogeneity and transparent, functional organization:people knew their place in the hierarchy, days had their prescribed choresand routines, there were rules regulating interaction and, where not clearly formulated,pious desire took over as I shall describe in the next chapter; even the physical spacesupported this certainty and transparency of camp life – what Pradeep referred to as its„simplicity‟. There was a symbolic efficiency to this mode of living, a stable world, abackground of certainty which - when one was still a rookie - took the form of obedience.What changed here was not the structures and routines of camp life but the personsinhabiting them; they were the ones who should be moving, be transforming themselvesand gaining the confidence of a revolutionary, as was the case with Shristhi and Damini‟srelationship. Their change occurred in an environment of symbolic stability andthis was the struggle on the level of the self, so that even though life appeared normaland calm – watching TV, eating, sleeping – cadres were seen to undergo a transformativeprocess that moved along in this symbolically „efficient‟ environment, acting, as itwere, as a guide. In contrast to Gillian Tan‟s ethnography of Tibetan nomads, for instance(2009), waiting was therefore not the opposite of movement; it was a type ofmovement. Cadre life registered this movement as a preparation that started with thesacrifice of one‟s time, proceeded through apprenticeship, and resulted in a leadership182


WAI T I N G F O R W O R K , W A I T I N G A S W O R Kposition. Outside work reminded cadres of this movement that waiting implied. On alarger scale then, waiting was a potential challenge. This was not the challenge of passivityor boredom, however, but of the threat that waiting actually became what itseemed to be – without perspective, meaningless and motionless.During the precariousness of the transition phase, this became a pertinent issue thatconcerned the entire movement, although it was particularly a problem with regard tothe PLA cadres – the YCL‟s predecessors as it were – since they were engulfed in adouble insecurity; in the revolutionary progression and in their own fate within themovement. The YCL had inherited the momentum of avant-garde revolutionaries fromthe PLA, as explained in Chapter One, and were thereby insulated against such an unhealthyrelationship between time and being – i.e. motionlessness – but the steady declineof its cadre-base even during my time in the field indicated that this might not alwaysbe so; in fact, the very transfer of the avant-garde banner from one suborganizationin the CPN-M to another (from PLA to the YCL) highlighted the fragilityof any one „limb‟ of the movement – it could be left to wither and die so easily.The very possibility of such a flip, by which struggle turns into motionlessness, describesan instability in the sacrifice of waiting that was present in my field. A short examplecan be given of such revolutionary frustration from one of the PLA cadres whowaited for a long time in the UN-monitored cantonments for a political solution to theirdemobilization. Throughout the transition period, news stories would depict the ruthlessbehavior of some PLA soldiers, who had threatened locals with illegally procuredweapons, and there had been a nation-wide consensus that the reintegration of the Maoistcombatants into society was a top priority without which the entire peace processwould be endangered. Yet, according to the PLA soldier I interviewed in his village duringDashain, this was not the real problem for him. Rather, he was worried that the party‟sengagement in parliamentary politics was threatening the fruits of the People‟sWar. When a ban on displaying party flags and pictures of Chairman Prachanda in thePLA cantonments was passed in August 2009 (since the PLA was not officially underthe CPN-M‟s authority but that of a specially established commission), he was actuallyrelieved. He felt it would now be easier for the PLA soldiers to dissuade themselvesfrom the compromises of big-city politics and continue the revolution that he had signedup for: „If we are not allowed to continue our struggle, then I will have wasted all theyears I have given to the movement,‟ he explained. The fear of motionlessness, for him,came with the diminishing relevance of his struggle, which would render his entirestruggle, including his current waiting in the PLA cantonment, futile.Waiting was, then, potentially problematic, and it needed to be held in check by itscontinued relevance, not just for oneself but for the revolutionary struggle as a whole.183


C H A P T E R 5Although the YCL had thus far been spared such a waiting scenario which the PLA cadreshad experienced, the continuous waning of relevant work activities outside thecamp for the large number of whole-timers posed a concrete challenge to the significanceof cadres‟ waiting as a sacrifice. This suggests that while waiting could be constructedas meaningful on one level – as something which acted as a preparation for upcomingwork, for one‟s own maturity as a cadre, and for one‟s advancement to leadershippositions with more activity – it was, like the camp itself, a type of mirage: onlyinsofar as it reflected off the surface of general revolutionary relevance could it sustainits energy as productive. It thus depended, like the moon‟s ability to reflect, on an externalsource of energy, and this source was party work – the stuff leaders did daily andwhich the cadres got increasing access to as they matured. When party work faded sodid the meaningfulness of waiting.Herein lies one of the dynamics of cadreship in the present: that whereas it is configuredas a space of waiting in which loyal party cadres are produced, from the cadres‟perspective the camp is only a context for real revolutionary work. When there was littleof this external work, cadres either left or they had to give themselves up completely tothe logic of the camp as an isolated institution, which seemed to be the case with two ofthe senior section cadres, Rohit and Ashmi, who put more energy than others into thecommunity chores and were the only two cadres remaining by December 2010. Thissuggests that cadres themselves also have to fight meaninglessness in the struggle of therevolutionary. Proper waiting is therefore, in itself, a struggle and the moment it losesits relevance – a threat that is always imminent – one has lost.CONCLUSIONDue to the decline of the YCL, none of the post-war cadres in Nayabasti had actuallymanaged to escape the sectional structure as of late 2009, and the rapid dwindling of theoffice, which left only two cadres behind one year later, suggested that this situationwas not going to change. The camp became the cadres‟ birth and death, the site of theirinauguration into the party community but also the institution that they were unable toliberate themselves from, thus rendering their progression as cadres one long period ofwaiting interspersed by occasional party activities in public.Cadres‟ waiting – for work and for leadership – was therefore ultimately about therole of the camp as an institution for „parking‟ or withholding cadres‟ active contributionto the continued revolution and to bringing about the promised New Nepal. It wasabout protracting their sacrifice. What was at stake in the drowsy everyday of the campwas not the threat of meaninglessness in relation to the activities themselves (boredom),184


WAI T I N G F O R W O R K , W A I T I N G A S W O R Kbut the necessity of renewing the link between outside work and inside life (relevance).While camp life was modeled to express the sacrificial relation between cadres and janata,and thus to make one‟s camp sacrifice relevant as a preparation, a crucial sourceof its energy was outside both the camp and outside the self. Yet cadres‟ access to thisoutside was limited and the challenge for the YCL cadres was to render their routinesacrifices politically meaningful.We can begin to see in the triadic relationship between cadres, sacrifice and camplife, then, a process of inversion by which the Maoist cadreship has been turned inwardsin the transition phase, onto the camp and onto the newcomer cadres, whose „struggle‟comes to revolve around making camp life work and imbuing it with a significance thatregisters as political activism. Chores, as I have shown, indexed a reproductive labor ofthe household and yet attained a quality of the revolutionary spirit through notions ofcollectivity and the symbolism of the floor; waiting, in turn, while describing stillness,inactivity, low-intensity discipline and an impressively long period of apprenticeship,was cast as situational since it was a process that gradually elevated cadres, guidingthem into a position of leader and the promise of action in the Arendtian sense – the politicaland public manifestation of being through word and deed.The camp was the cadres‟ road to political activism but it proceeded via a developmentof their revolutionary subjectivities, and this took the form of odd camp sacrificesthat had to be passed prior to their full participation in the CPN-M‟s party activities. Notpublic but enclosed and largely invisible sacrifices that testified to the paradoxes of revolutionaryprogression during a political stalemate, and which ended up being turned inon camp life and indeed on cadres‟ subjectivities to become a struggling self. The aspectsof revolutionary sacrifice discussed so far contain elements of this most introvertedbattle of a cadre subjectivity – the move from selfishness to collectivity as well as theability to turn waiting into a productive experience – but the next chapter will deal directlywith how cadres‟ were mobilized to reform themselves through pious behaviorand to morally combat, or sacrifice, the non-revolutionary comportments of their being.185


6 COMMUNIST PIETISMCadres‟ shift from civilian life to becoming full-time Maoist activists and their movementinto a secluded realm that kept itself apart from outside society performed a ritualizedseparation between two incompatible worlds. Not merely an army barracks or atraining facility, the camp became an alternative space of sociality with the goal of preparingmembers for the party world, allowing them to re-enter the society they had leftbehind after successful service, after an extended waiting and extensive laboring withchores. When they had learned to obey their commanders, to internalize an „alwaysready‟discipline, to master values of collectivity, to labor for the community, to addresseach other respectfully, and to wait, then they were ready to be let out of the camp. Almost.This chapter investigates one final, and the most fundamental, aspect of cadres‟camp sacrifices, namely the requirement of correct behavior and the ability to renouncethe unwanted qualities of their previous lives. It testifies to how central personal andmoral reform became in the process of creating cadre subjectivities and thus to the importanceof post-war cadreship as a method of initiation; in order to be successful andbecome integrated into the party through access to leadership and meaningful work, cadreswere required to change into revolutionaries and this meant learning to become betterpersons.Departing from an understanding of the camp as a „liminal space‟ (van Gennep1960; Turner 1969) that actively sought to break away from outside social life, I explorehow new ideas of conduct and an emphasis on moral qualities were expressed and practicedamong the cadres, reflecting the fact that the camp was not merely seen to be qualitativelydifferent from dominant society; it was envisioned as better. Not infested withswartha (selfishness), capitalist labor relations or hierarchies of worth, and „free‟ fromthe intrusion of family obligations, it could set itself apart as a protected place in whichprocesses of personal reform became possible. As such, it was reminiscent of places ofworship and I shall pursue this link with religion along two tracks: first through the no-


C O M M U N I S T P I E T I S Mtion of pietism which I mobilize to describe the recruitment of persons to changethrough an elaboration of desirable behavior; and second by invoking the Durkheimianidea of the sacred (Durkheim 1995) to describe the qualitative difference that cadres‟pietism resulted in when compared to religious pietism.Accordingly, the camp as I approach it here, by way of its liminal separation fromsociety, was the site of the sacred as distinct from the profanity associated with the outside.Recalling Hubert & Mauss‟s theory of sacrifice as a process of sacralization(1964), this gives us a tool to understand how cadres‟ pietism accomplished a sacralizationsuch that their progression as revolutionaries simultaneously described their movementfrom a profane being associated with outside life to the sacredness necessary forparticipation in the sacrificial rite (Hubert & Mauss‟ hypothesis). Considering the fluidityof private and public spaces in Kathmandu‟s social and religious life (see Gray 1994;1995), cadres‟ separation was indeed astonishing and possibly one of the most startlingfeatures of whole-timer activism. What for everyone else was a reasonably open partyspace – guests, other cadres, neighbors, leaders – was for the section cadres, particularlythe junior members, a bordered camp, separated not by a physical boundary but by asymbolic one. And it was the efficiency of this boundary that turned Nayabasti into aliminal space for post-conflict cadres, and facilitated their development – their transformation– into revolutionaries via a process of sacralization.To establish this, I focus on everyday pietism through two central processes: rulesregulating unsolicited behavior, and renunciations of pleasures, which I shall treat underthe heading of „communist pietism‟ to distinguish them from religious comportments ofthe self that have been richly analyzed in the context of Nepal (Hausner 2007; Gray1995; Ortner 1978). What I explore here is how renunciation and pious behavior had asits goal to establish the cadre as a revolutionary „heroes‟, as a „new man‟ by overcominghis or her selfish desires. I start by discussing the problematic of enjoying food amongcadres as an example of how renunciation is expressed in Nayabasti. I then proceed toan analysis of the CPN-M‟s efforts to promote YCL cadres as the party‟s „new man‟through a focus on cetana, consciousness, and show how the paradoxical requirementfor cadres to be the revolutionary avant-garde when they were simply novices receivingtraining led to a focus on personal morality as the site of their avant-gardism. The lastsection explores the chief practices of this morality, i.e. cadres‟ communist pietism,through three different expressions: renunciations of desires and entertainment; regulationsgoverning conduct; and lastly by invoking studies of monasticism and pietism. Inthe conclusion, I reflect upon the processes leading from camp to public sacrifices andthe importance of cadres‟ sacralization through communist piety. But first to an everydaycase of pietism that occurs around meal times.187


C H A P T E R 6„WE DID NOT COME HERE TO EAT TASTY FOOD‟On most days in the camp, the evening dalbhat meal was preceded by a period of rest.Time would often be spent sitting in the TV room half-heartedly watching the screenwhile making small-talk and peeping out at the balcony to try and read the behavior ofthe cadres overlooking the street to see if something interesting was happening. But wewere actually more interested in watching the door. Whenever someone entered in theseearly evening hours, we turned our heads in anticipation that it was one of the cookingsection cadres announcing that the meal was ready. With only two meals a day and nosnacks in between, everyone was very hungry by the time the late round of dalbhat wasserved. Tara had lately complained that he was getting fat but when I suggested he eatless rice, he was shocked: how could he last the whole day if he did not fill himself upwith a full second portion in the morning? He was afraid of going hungry, and withgood reason. It was easily eight, sometimes up to ten or eleven hours between the twodaily meals. When I stayed several days in a row, I often tried to invite some of the cadresout for tea during the day to cover up my own rumbling stomach and legitimize alittle mid-day snack.When the call for dinner finally arrived, everyone would rush down to the „mess‟ –the appropriate military term for a kitchen – and prepare the mats for seating but wouldwait for everyone to arrive before lining up and receiving their portion. During meals,the general silence of camp life disappeared, and people talked in small groups orpassed comments around for everyone to hear. If Pradeep was present, he would dominatethe interaction by telling funny stories from his time in the war or engage me in amore serious debate about the phase of the current struggle. But when that was not thecase, there was a loosening of social roles and hierarchies, and all cadres could participatein the communal sharing of food and talk. And then an interesting thing wouldhappen: at some point during the meal, one of the cadres would look disapprovingly athis bowl and criticize the food by exclaiming that „this is not tasty food‟, or „there arestones in the rice‟, or „this vegetable is truly untasty‟. 1 This statement would lead othersto agree, and often when we had just sat down and hardly had a chance to taste the food,someone would enthusiastically ask me whether this was not really un-tasty, and mydenials would only meet with renewed efforts to criticize the food.Food was not supposed to be tasty, and when it was not the quality of the food thatwas being commented on, it was instead the poor quality of the cooks that was mentioned– that he or she cooked a poor dalbhat – and rather than a criticism, the joke was1 The Nepali expressions used were „mitho chaina‟ (it is not tasty) or „ramro chaina‟ (it is notgood), the latter referring both to taste and quality.188


C O M M U N I S T P I E T I S Mactually on those who cooked tasty meals, such as Banhi. Comments such as these werealways made in jest, and in fact Banhi was the first to laugh at the joke. Sometimes, themerry joking about poor food turned into its opposite when someone solemnly declaredthat in fact this was very good food and so-and-so did indeed cook a really tastydalbhat. Immediately everyone else would follow suit and heap praise on the cookingteam, recalling that they were expected to speak respectfully to each other and not engagein spontaneous criticism.Eating was, in fundamental ways, at odds with the idea that cadres had donatedthemselves to an important social project; it resembled moments of leisure and a loosenedsociality that went against the disciplinary requirements of a militarized institution.While it necessarily stole time away from potential work, it was thus rendered problematicbecause of what it signaled: a relaxation of „alertness‟ and a resumption of ordinarydivisions between labor and leisure as found in civilian life outside the camp. When Italked about this with Ashmi, she explained:People think we are just eating and sleeping, but we are also engaged in ourown struggle […] we did not come here to earn money or to flash nicedresses or eat tasty food. Revolution is really difficult [and] we came herefor the class emancipation of the people.‟The bracketing of eating thus formed part of a general perception of what it meant to beconducting a revolution. There is a contrast between eating and struggling here whichsuggests that they were mutually exclusive and, to underline that the problem here wasnot food per se, Ashmi repeated the opposition by referring to „tasty food‟ (mithokhana). Others I spoke to also stressed this inherent danger in eating because it potentiallynegated the „simplicity‟ of cadre life which allowed cadres to concentrate on beingrevolutionaries. Pradeep often spoke of this seeming simplicity of cadre life as a necessityfor revolutionaries using the motto „high thinking, simple living‟, thereby linkingextravagance with counter-revolutionary behavior. Tasty food simply negated the roleof the revolutionary in a way similar to the symbolic link between life on the floor andthe proletariat, examined in Chapter 4.A local YCL leader, Ravi, who had been relocated to another area prior to 2009 butused to live in Nayabasti drew these discussions out when comparing his own shift tobecoming a cadre and the distinction he saw with other political parties whose activistsdid not understand the priorities of a revolutionary party. When he was young, he explained,he was 'just like any other youth – eating, drinking and wandering about(ghumnu)‟. He had learned to temper this and „change his mindset‟ so that he could nowfocus on „social work‟ and „helping society‟. This was very different in the other partieswhere he also had friends. It was not that he did not believe their sincerity but their in-189


C H A P T E R 6terests were just not the same. Their activism was different simply because their outlookon life was of another nature. He explained:There are different involvements based on how one thinks. My other friendsjoined [the other parties] because they had such an ideology (bicar), wherethey first concentrate on their own families and only then do they thinkabout others. It is different with us and it is the same in the camp. We allshare though we have limited food. These other friends, they are going torestaurants where they also focus on eating first and so on.For Maoist cadres, sharing limited food thus came to stand for the opposite of „eatingfirst‟ and going to restaurants because it indicated a type of behavior that put the individualbefore the community or, as I discussed in Chapter 4, before the collectivity,which encompasses both the entire body of party members and the direct link to janata.Food, particularly when it was limited and shared, could be thought of as a necessity oflife and was one of the principles the party was fighting for – that poor people wereprovided with food. This kind of food was subsistence; it should be simple and enough,nothing more.Food in Nayabasti was similarly spoken of in terms of a subsistence economy; as asan aspect of the economy of life it was a necessity and leaders were tasked with bringingin supplies and cadres with turning it into a collective chore that benefitted everybody.But, if too much food had been bought, the leaders responsible could be criticizedfor wasting resources. The problem of food, khana, was provision – making sure it wasavailable. Suraj told me once how he had responded to complaints from his section thatnew shoes were needed. He had been, as he said, a „moderator‟ during a section meeting,in his capacity as a Vice-Commander. He had immediately improvised an answeralthough he had not needed to: „The party has limited funds, and first we must providefood, therefore it is impossible to buy new clothing right now.‟ It was clearly an „ideological‟answer for he had no idea of the economy of the camp; this was Pradeep andNischal‟s department. But the framing of „food before shoes‟ reminded cadres of thesimplicity of their lives here such that food assumed the role of the simple and necessary– the ground of cadre life, so to speak.It was eating (khane) and not food (khana) which was shot through with ambivalence.Engaging in eating – the consumption part of the meal – was what was renderedproblematic about camp life. While on the one hand a kind of gift from the party, particularlyon Saturdays, and an occasion when cadres came together as a community andmeat would be served, it had to be differentiated from going to restaurants and puttingoneself before others, which characterized rival party cadres. The joking interaction duringmeal times pointed to this paradox about food. If food was available, at least itshould not be abundant or tasty. What does this tell us about the pietism of cadre life?190


C O M M U N I S T P I E T I S MWhy could food not be tasty? To understand this, we need to investigate the notion ofYCL‟s „new man‟ and how cadres were expected to transform themselves.BECOMING A „NEW MAN‟Communist movements worldwide have historically been preoccupied with the creationof a „new man‟ as part of a general modernist utopia wherein the birth of a new societygoes hand in hand with the makeover of the human subject (Cheng 2009). From the Soviet„new man‟ through Mao‟s „good soldiers‟ to Cuba‟s „let them all become Che‟, awide range of programs and ideas for reshaping subjectivity have taken place that havebecome precursors for later experiments in instigating societal reform by paying attentionto individual character. The Nepali Maoist movement is no exception, although onlyscant attention has been paid to this aspect of the maobadi revolution (for an exception,see Zharkevich 2009a & 2009b; Lecomte-Tilouine 2010b). To truly revolutionizesociety – a concern that the CPN-M shares – another type of human is needed who ismore in sync with the ideals of the new society, such as a willingness to sacrifice for thebenefit of the greater good and the ability to renounce „greed‟ (Prachanda 2012:5). Morethan just the CPN-M‟s „new man‟, however, the YCL was constituted in the spirit of anavant-garde following Lenin‟s theory of a professional corps that should direct the revolutionby guiding and educating the „masses‟ (1973), and cadres were therefore subjectedto a strict regime of personal excellence since, as professional revolutionaries, theyhad to be, or become, better than the general population, for how else could they act asguides?Unlike many other revolutionary movements, the CPN-M has not developed a distinctvocabulary of a Maoist „new man‟ but has expressed its sensitivity towards the desirousqualities of its members through revolutionary poetry and similar cultural genres(theater, songs etc., see De Sales 2003; Mottin 2010; Lecomte-Tilouine 2010a) or inspecific policies addressing illegitimate or disagreeable behavior as evidenced by thefew studies available on the cultural logic of the party‟s practices during the People‟sWar (Zharkevich 2009a; Lecomte-Tilouine 2010b; Shneiderman & Turin 2004). Whatcan be gleaned from consulting these readings, and which also resonates with my ownobservations both from the field and in studying party leaders‟ speeches and publicationsis the CPN-M‟s steady concern with selflessness and sacrifice in direct oppositionto what is usually denoted as „anti-social‟ behavior. This should come as no surprise;these are historically recognizable tropes of communist politics, amongst others, andconstitute some of the most basic, if not essential revolutionary „virtues‟ as analyzed byHannah Arendt in her reading of Robespierre (2006:69):191


C H A P T E R 6One has often been struck by the peculiar selflessness of the revolutionists[…]. Virtue has indeed been equated with selflessness ever since Robespierrepreached the virtue that was borrowed from Rousseau, and it is theequation which has put, as it were, its indelible stamp upon the revolutionaryman and his innermost conviction that the […]value of man be judgedby the extent to which he acts against his own interest and against his ownwill.Looking specifically at the YCL‟s internal publications and programs, it is possibleto tease out some of the core components of this vision of cadre subjectivity. In its programsand speeches, the YCL leadership underscored the organization‟s role in bringingabout change by fostering a new generation of „conscious youth‟. It combined two importantideas: one that youth stood at the forefront of the current national struggle forchange since they had been disproportionately affected by the „vulgarity‟ and exploitationof „imperialist forces‟, while also being the privileged agent for change since theywere more easily persuaded to „new thinking‟ (Bhujel 2008); and, two, that the primarytool for turning youth into a revolutionary force was to educate them and provide themwith a „new consciousness‟ (see Lohani 2008). These ideas were shared by leaders inthe camp. On my very first meeting with Pradeep, I had sat with him on the roof ofNayabasti, with all the cadres that I was yet to get to know sitting patiently and attentivelyaround us. I had told him about my interest in working with the young cadres directly,and he had explained why he thought that was actually a good idea.A new age has begun in Nepali politics and the youth are given consciousness.Not only in Nepal, but throughout the world, youth will learn that theydo not have to bear injustices and suppression [...] The political consciousnesscomes from poor people and the oppressed. Youth who don't like semiimperialismwant redemption and youth who don't like injustice and oppressionfeel that this party can give them a better future. Youth are ready tocontribute time to the party. If they work 5 hours for themselves, they stillgive 3 hours to the party, and they listen to us and plan and read the news,and they gain consciousness and end up under our flag.The stress on consciousness, cetana, has in fact been central to CPN-M‟s vision ofchange. Cetana is the outcome of class struggle and describes a maturation, a qualityone can attain. The consciousness in question was thus not merely social but distinctlypolitical; when oppressed youth started fighting against their subordinate class position,and this process led to consciousness. Class struggle was seen by YCL leaders as an 'automatic'dynamic because the mere fact of being oppressed would lead to a reactionagainst it and such an experience would in turn lead to cetana. Oppression would automaticallyresult in 'counteraction', and political consciousness, rajnaitik cetana, would192


C O M M U N I S T P I E T I S Mthen come 'automatically', as I was alerted to by Pradeep's district leader, 'simply by participatingin class conflict'.Here, the ideological path „Prachanda Path‟ of the CPN-M Chairman was seen toplay a determining role. It was Prachanda Path that produced political consciousness inyouth, I was told, and thereby prepared them to become leaders of the global revolution.Consciousness was not merely a particularly Nepali expression of the new man but,through the guidance of Prachanda Path, it could become a model for youth throughoutthe world. But such a youth consciousness also relied, in turn, on becoming modernizedso that it gained its force by linking up with technological advancement. The YCLChairman Ganeshman Pun explained it in these terms:Developed countries have technology but lack ideology. We want a fusion ofpolitical ideology and technology. Hollow slogans are of no use, but technologyand expertise are also of no use by themselves. It needs to be combined,there should be a fusion of the two. [In fusing these two, we get] amodern man with a high level of consciousness and energy.[...] Human beings cannot be happy just by buying things. By nature, manwants to change his surroundings. There is a drive towards consciousness.Our chairman [Prachanda] has said that even in developed countries, thereshould be campaigns for consciousness. In our context, there is a lot of discrimination,and the youth are getting ready to redeem themselves from theseconditions.It was in the fusion of modernity with political consciousness that the road to theYCL‟s „new man‟ was found, reflecting not only the modernist belief, deeply engravedin Marx‟s writing, that human nature was malleable – „All history is nothing but a continuoustransformation of human nature‟ (Marx 1955:190) – but the more specificMarxist understanding of creative labor (see Chapter Four), whereby human beingswere seen by nature to want to change their surroundings. Creative labor was the tool toset humans free but it was so by being transformative of the self through a developmentthat led to consciousness. Political consciousness, in particular, was understood byMaoist leaders such as Ganeshman Pun as the frame for all other types of consciousness- 'individual' and 'social' for instance. The CPN-M‟s concern for collectivity and loyaltyto the greater good was thereby given ideological expression as a 'higher' stage of consciousnessthat encompassed inferior ones. Rajnaitik cetana, political consciousness,presided over other expressions of human development and, therefore, the quality thatYCL youth should learn to harbor.How were YCL cadres, the „youth‟ at the pedestal of this societal transformation,expected to acquire political consciousness? While consciousness emerged automaticallywhen participating in class struggle, it could be helped along and sharpened through193


C H A P T E R 6mental labor. This was particularly indispensable for post-revolutionary cadres wherestruggle had changed character, as explained to me by one of the leaders in Nayabasti.Whereas the People's War had been full of physical 'struggling', such as carrying suppliespast police posts and through the jungle, or learning to control one's fear of beingcaptured by the armed forces, struggles today, Marut explained, were more 'mental'. Ifanything, consciousness had therefore become more prominent as the struggle changedcharacter.One of the distinctive features of post-conflict cadreship was therefore this extensionof struggle onto the domain of cetana and we can see how the camp became theprimary site of struggle for this new generation of activists. Rather than secretly smugglingweapons past police-posts, or traveling under the cover of night to avoid detectionthat were also, in a sense, „support‟ functions for the actual revolutionary battles againsttheir class enemies, YCL cadres performed this support work within the perimeters ofthe camp through a training of their consciousness, through an „internal‟ battle, as itwere.„INNER STRUGGLE‟To attain a proper political consciousness, it was necessary to become acquainted withMarxist theories about society and the nature of its conflicts. Thus, studying was seen asan integral aspect of camp life, an ideal both leaders and ordinary members regularlyinvoked, often literally comparing the camp with a school because it involved learningnew things and debating political issues with each other. Studying, listening and readingwere natural components of this development, and it was understood by cadres as a „politicaleducation‟ whereby they could build up their own vocabulary, allowing them tounderstand the unfolding of events around them and design appropriate responses. Thedaily morning routine of reading the newspaper was an element of this „education‟ buteven more so was the party literature circulated within sections and provided by leaderssuch as Marut, Pradeep or others above section structure, and which cadres were expectedto study.The problem was that, despite their good intentions and the section leaders‟ responsibilityto form study groups and help cadres understand the material, very little timewas in fact spent reading, no doubt in part due to the fact that, with little or only a fewyears of schooling, most of the cadres were barely literate. Some of those who were infact strong readers, like Suraj and a cadre named Rajan, however, were not particularlyinterested in the Maoist literature available in the camp, and tried to get me to buy themgeneral science magazines which they could not themselves afford. And camp leaders194


C O M M U N I S T P I E T I S Mthemselves, Marut being a good example, highlighted the futility of purely „theoretical‟knowledge; he was therefore less concerned with what cadres read, as long as it was notincompatible with cadre piety, explaining that pornographic material was definitely notallowed. Despite the strong discursive stress on cetana, consciousness, studying theoreticalMarxism and reading about party policies and the leaders‟ political analyses thatfilled the books and CPN-M magazines available in Nayabasti was not a high priorityfor either the cadres or their seniors.While cadres were not particularly diligent in training their political understandingand had glaring holes in their knowledge about contemporary political events, the questionof cetana remained crucial as a lever for action. Cadres routinely criticized eachother, though rarely directly, when there was a 'lack of understanding' because, in linewith the Maoist notion of praxis, if interpretations, or „thinking‟ (bicar), was faulty,then actions would also be misguided. A cadre‟s correct behavior therefore started withthe idea of proper understanding – even if this was in practice rather limited. Consciousness,and political consciousness in particular, was seen as such a central qualityof revolutionary character because it served as a guide. It was a kind of perpetual ideologicalcompass and if one lost one's bearings it would be like navigating in the dark.Revolutionary action needed to be insulated from such unguided behavior.This replays Lenin's famous distinction between the 'spontaneity' of the masses andthe 'vanguard' of professional revolutionaries that provides ideological guidance (Lenin1973) and the YCL saw itself in a similar role, combining the Maoist vision of a „continuousrevolution‟ with the Leninist model of guidance by an avant-garde force of„conscious youth‟. This process started with building the character of individual cadres,ascertaining that they were in fact capable of spearheading the revolutionary momentum.In this way, the question of youth consciousness led directly to the figure of thevanguard and, at least for YCL whole-timers, this was where the question of the „newman‟ was located. A significant shift was thereby introduced that led to an emphasis noton how well cadres were educated in revolutionary theory but on how convincingly theycould act as guides for the „masses‟. But what did this mean for a youth force which waslargely illiterate and for whom consciousness training was an insurmountable task?How could one be „avant-garde‟ when one could hardly read?That cadres were expected not merely to be educated in revolutionary theory but togo through a process of personal transformation was evident through the way theyspoke about their activist histories. After recounting his own story of entering the party,Ravi had told me that 'we are like children and the party like our parents' and that cadresshould therefore allow themselves to be transformed as a child would. He had himselfbeen transformed, he explained, from an irresponsible youth into a person who did not195


C O M M U N I S T P I E T I S Mto fend off his new feelings by saying that love and intimacy were only „part of theheart‟ and that „the heart should not be focused on love all the time‟. He tried to quantifythis: „Only two hours a day, it is ok to think about her‟, but this number graduallygrew and when the balance had reversed so that it was now „ok‟ to think about his love22 hours out of 24, Suraj knew that he, like others before him, had lost the dedicationrequired to continue living in the camp with its shared spaces, mode of participation,extensive waiting and, above all, commitment to personal change. Suraj never said directlythat his love and the revolution were incompatible but he did not have to, for hisdwindling interest in his cadre life spoke for itself. Keeping his feelings to himself, hisnotebook now became the center of this new struggle, and he shifted from revolutionaryprose to his search for „romantic love‟, filling the last five pages with one long praise ofhis love‟s beauty and the sincerity and mutuality of their feelings. He ended: „Now Ithink I have achieved my work. I am happy.‟ A week later, he was gone.Suraj‟s love changed him. It had grown in his mind, and he was no longer able tokeep up the commitment that his cadre life required. He was very well aware of this:just one or two weeks before, he had received help from „a dai [elder brother or relative]‟outside the party to procure his citizenship card, which was required to travelabroad to work, and before I left with some of the other cadres to go to their village forthe Dashain holidays, he had asked me for my email address. We both knew why but Idid not ask so he did not have to lie, since leaving the party was always done in a hush.When we returned from the holiday, Himal, who had been serving right under Suraj,was quite shocked that the latter had not returned to the camp:He was a senior compared to me. He was quite experienced, he has been involvedfor two or three years but I wish him well and maybe when he returnshe will be affiliated to the party again. That would be good, if he did.What can I say? He was a VC and used to give me commands and whoknows many things and is more experienced than me, and when a guy likehim suddenly leaves (tyagyo) then it really shocks me. Then tomorrow Imight also leave. That kind of thinking came to my mind.It was particularly difficult for Himal to understand because he was in the middle ofa completely different process. „My involvement in the party has just started,‟ he explained,although he had now been a member for a year. „There are a hundred proceduresto learn and I have just learned a few. There is much more struggle that I have todo.‟Unlike Suraj, Himal was still on the path of transforming himself into a revolutionaryand this required a commitment that Suraj was unable to regenerate. The process ofthis transformation was sometimes spoken of by cadres as an „internal struggle‟, takingits cue from the party‟s discourse of a „two-line struggle‟ meaning both one conducted197


C H A P T E R 6against one‟s class enemies through politics and one conducted within the party throughdebate to rid it of its „internal‟ contradictions, its inherent „class‟ character. The shortcomingsof an „internal struggle‟ within the cadre community were usually described byleaders in organizational terms as „weaknesses‟, as a lack of communication betweenbase and the leadership for instance, but cadres also used this vocabulary to refer to theirown personal „contradictions‟, the way they had to fight a part of their self in the strugglefor avant-gardism. Discussing the notion of anta sangarsha, intra-struggle, Bibekexplained:Revolution is a kind of a struggle. What we are doing inside the party is alsoa struggle. The debate that occurs between each other is also revolution, butthere is another revolution as well; that is internal struggle, class struggle.Intra-struggle occurs inside the party, class struggle occurs outside the party.This stress on internal or intra-struggle as also concerning individuals‟ personalstruggles for change was not wholly unwarranted since the Maoist theory of dialecticsthat the CPN-M was inspired by postulated that anti-revolutionary tendencies were to befound on all „levels‟, including within the individual itself, and consequently efforts atovercoming these negative traits required a focus on self-reform through a perpetual cycleof criticism and self-criticism. One of the virtues of revolutionaries was therefore todevelop a dialectical perspective of one‟s self, as being the site of an eternal strugglebetween good and evil. The notion of evil for cadres, as we have seen most clearly inthe philosophical underpinnings of the chore system, was selfishness, and cadres‟ commitmentto the party in the practices of submission, waiting and laboring attested totheir ability of putting the needs of the collective before their personal interests. Whatresulted from this was the requirement, forcefully described by Hannah Arendt in heranalysis of revolutionary avant-gardism, that „each particular man rises against himself[so as to be] able to arouse in himself his own antagonist [since] the interest of thewhole must automatically, and indeed permanently, be hostile to the particular interestof the citizen‟ (2006:69).To fight oneself, to engage in an „inner struggle‟, was therefore an inevitable appendageof cadre subjectivity among YCL whole-timers, and one which gave the idea ofcommitment a much more serious edge than the word immediately suggests. It was acommitment that could never remain only „political‟ but became a personal struggle andthis was why, eventually, it was impossible for Suraj to combine it with being in love.Suraj had used the metaphor of the „heart‟ to refer to this conflict – that his heart couldonly be either „filled up‟ with revolution or love but not both – and it was an apt termfor expressing how both involved his entire being, his self, by being located at its center.198


C O M M U N I S T P I E T I S MInterestingly, Himal used a similar vocabulary of feelings to refer to his own personaltransformation. Reflecting that his process was for the moment the exact opposite ofSuraj‟s – being actively engaged in changing himself – he explained that he felt exceedingly„happy‟; happy to be a cadre, happy for the revolution, and happy for janata, sincewhen they were happy, he was happy.RENOUNCING „ENTERTAINMENT‟Cadres‟ „inner struggle‟ was expressed through pious behavior. Lacking the analyticalskills of youth in the student wing and without the ability to draw on the physical„struggles‟ that their leaders had participated in during the People‟s War, peacetime cadres‟political commitment became expressed through camp life and the moral separationbetween youthhood outside and inside the party. The problem Maoist whole-timersfaced was thus how to inject a form of „heroism‟ (Guevara & Castro 1989) into everydaylife, to make the domestic a sacred place where revolutionaries-qua-sacrificers wereformed and post-conflict heroism thereby became inextricably bound up with a mode ofliving. The heroic deeds that defined this revolutionary character became expressedthrough the daily interaction of its members and not in high-flying or spectacular activities;heroism in this context was conspicuously 'low-fi'.In thinking cadre behavior through pietism, I have been inspired by the importantparallels between revolutionary and religious doctrines in linking the rebirth of personalityin the new world with a stern commitment to bodily reform in the present. 3 SabaMahmood's work from Egypt pioneers the interesting dynamic inherent in pietism fromwhich I take my cue (2001, 2005). She describes how Islamic women in Egypt submitto a regime of self-discipline as part of an effort to attain ethical personhood. ForMahmood, the problem we have in appreciating how submission can lead to freedom isthat we are stuck in a logic of norms as repressive and hence as something that has to beendured or resisted. It is Mahmood's analytical strength that she has been able to linkthe difficulty in grasping the complex nature of pietism with this categorical blind spot.I want to build on these crucial insights while transferring them to the radically differentcontext that Nepali Maoism is, that is, back out of the religious context that allowed3 While there is also a distinct relationship between Christianity and Communism because theyshare many ideas about the nature of society and humanity - see for instance Cort 1998 for anexploration of the phenomenon of Christian Socialism, in which he particularly highlights theemphasis on equality and the skepticism of capitalism as two central ideas that Christianityshares with Communism – it is not the content of this overlap but the similarity in processes thatinterests me.199


C H A P T E R 6Mahmood to grasp the unresolved tension in feminist attitudes to pietism. In manyways, the communist ideals that inform revolutionary cadreship and which I have tracedhere provoke the same ambiguous response from a Western ideology of freedom – whatMahmood, following Asad, 'loosely' refers to as a 'modernist secular-liberal ethos'(2005:24). Communist pietism stands in the same strained relationship to Western notionsof liberal democratic subjects that religious pietism does: how can it be 'liberating'and transformative of subjectivities in any positively meaningful way? Yet this is exactlythe contention of Mahmood's study of pietism and also what I want to draw attentionto with regard to Maoist cadreship. It is a subject-position, to be sure, but one whichmay be experienced as empowering.Camp life, we should recall, symbolized a break with society outside, allowing cadresto use it as a platform for personal change in a protected environment separatedfrom friends, family and forces of „selfishness‟ and „anti-social‟ behavior. What was atstake in Nayabasti‟s cultural codes was not merely a question of proper behavior but ofproper desires and cadres‟ renunciations were particularly focused on „enjoyment‟ asthat part of the self which needed to be eradicated. The ambiguity surrounding eatingillustrates this well. Although cadres joked about the quality of the food and cooks whocooked tasty meals, it was far worse to be attached to good food.This was the case with Keshav, whom I only managed to meet a few times beforehe moved back to his village. Keshav was 23 years old, and a roundish guy, befitting theNepali term „moto‟. 4 Except for Nischal who was by all accounts bulky, everyone elsein the camp was slim. In the new camp, the next-door shop where cadres often hung outwas run by a stout Limbu, and he was laughingly referred to as a „moto guy‟ (motomanche). Not only did this describe his stature well, it also referred to his humor –good-natured and talkative. Keshav shared the same dual quality of being good humoredand rounded. When he left the camp to return to his village in order to help hiswife give birth to their second child, the explanation offered by the other cadres as towhy he left rested with Keshav‟s love of food: „He liked to eat very much and maybe hewas dissatisfied with the quality of the food‟; or „He used to each so much, and wouldalways take seconds‟; „He couldn‟t wait for Saturdays when we were having meat and4 Moto is usually translated as being fat but the way moto was used in Kathmandu was as a lightform of teasing someone for living the good life. People would often invitingly suggest that theywere themselves moto or happily entertain the joke by pulling up their shirts (that is, amongmen), demonstratively slapping their soft bellies and confirming their „moto-ness‟ with a laugh.In this sense, moto could actually signal status but, from the perspective of the Maoist members,this was a suspect status aligned to bahira values.200


C O M M U N I S T P I E T I S Mwas always begging Pradeep to provide meat more often‟. 5 In more general terms, itwas explained that Keshav had difficulty accepting the conditions of camp life, that hewas not satisfied with the simple life that the cadres had to endure. Keshav, in short,could not submit himself properly to the requirements of the camp‟s unique daily lifeand had, in particular, not been able to overcome his desire for food. Eating for himconstituted a type of „bourgeois‟ remnant that clouded his commitment, and this is whyit was so important to uphold the idea that the food being eaten in the camp was by defaultpoor, and that it did not constitute a right but in contrast something one was willingto compromise for the sake of work.The downplaying of the pleasure of eating tasty food contrasts with Nepali society,which places a high value on food. Elaborate meals are customary in order to showhonor to guests as well as to the Hindu gods, and celebrations and offerings consequentlyinclude lavish presentations of food. The „simplicity‟ of food in Nayabasti turned thislogic on its head. Food was something to be negated in any form other than as an untastymeal cooked by poor cooks. One could have it, but one should not desire it. Therenunciation of „love of food‟ that camp life required was therefore possibly the strangestbreak with bahira, outside, life.Although the renunciation of tasty food does indeed seem a strange way to producerevolutionaries, it does have its merits. For example, during August I was sitting in oneof the section rooms with a few of the cadres, flipping through some of the old pictures Ihad taken in the camp. At one point, there was a close-up of two cadres who had quitthe party during the summer, and on seeing them, Tara commented that: 'They weregood at eating a lot of rice, but not so strong in their ideology.' There was an inverse relationship,it seemed, between eating and attaining the 'sound ideology' that was a verystrong marker of maturity since it shielded cadres from „spontaneous‟ behavior. Eatingwas a significant first step in controlling behavioral spontaneity so, by learning not todesire tasty food, cadres sought to free themselves from the depth and dangers of selfishness,the sine qua non of Maoist cadreship and, for whole-timers on a path of personalimprovement, it became a cardinal point. Tasty food got in the way since it reproducedselfish desires but simple food, by contrast, could cure this moral ailment connectedto swartha, or selfishness. The strength of this model of cadre pietism was that itallowed cadres to break the road to 'conscious youth' down into smaller packages thatmade reform more manageable. Although renouncing tasty food did not seem like5 Keshav himself insisted that he did not quit the party but had merely chosen to relocate due tothe „pressing needs‟ of his family, and he claimed to still be in touch with Pradeep. However,when I asked Pradeep about this, he had no idea who I was talking about until I mentioned that„it was the guy who loved food‟. Keshav did, however, admit that he loved food. 'I can eat a lotof meat,' he explained. 'Even Pradeep and the other friends used to get shocked when I ate meat.'201


C H A P T E R 6much, it was nonetheless a first step and therefore very vital one. If one could not overcomesuch a simple renunciation, how were cadres ever going to advance to the muchmore complex struggles that a revolutionary's life contained?Camp life contained several such small indicators that its members were in a processof changing themselves through piety. One not only had to renounce tasty food butalso comfortable sleep, alcohol, flirtatious relationships, money, free time, smart clothing;in short, much of what defined youth outside the camp with its 'spontaneous' lifestyle.It was an outside seen as guided by the desires of 'entertainment', and camp life,by contrast, was seen as conversely serious. The life of revolutionaries should not be funand easy but - just like the revolutionary process - marked by struggle and hardships.Renouncing entertainment was thought to help cadres mark this shift and ultimately totravel the distance from entertainment to ethical behavior. The stress on ethics was particularlypronounced in the post-war scenario, when it became much easier to join theMaoists but when the party, on the other hand, was much more vulnerable to losing itsideological-competitive edge due to the political compromises of the peace process.Already in profiling cadres, as we have seen, leaders worried that the wrong type ofcadre might try to join, and cadres‟ willingness to transform themselves – to „invest‟ inthe party as Nishcal had called it – became an important way of measuring the newcomers‟sincerity. Here, the question of „entertainment‟ was central since it was a predominanttheme for teenagers in a commoditized urban context, and thus a fault line throughwhich to distinguish a serious cadre from a roaming youth guided by his or her ownself-interest. This dynamic was fleshed out by the leader of the YCL part-timers in theneighboring area Hari. Seeing the danger of entertainment as one of the challenges forhim as a leader, he complained that the part-timers he commanded were not as diligentas the whole-timers because, even though he gave them books to read, they would justbe watching TV at home instead, and he could not force them to study. He saw this asreflecting an overall distinction between 'two types of persons' who approached themovement: those that came with selfish intent and those who saw membership as a necessarystep in changing society. The first group of people thought they could live a 'luxurious'life under the patronage of the country's largest party or use it for their own endsto settle scores with someone they were fighting, or even for hiding if they had been engagedin illegal activities, 6 while the second type had come because they took their obligationas social transformers seriously.6 Because of the camp's seclusion from society, it was actually possible to think of these campsas refuges where prying eyes could not enter, and there was a widespread vigilance among thecamp's senior members to this type of exploitation of the party for 'selfish' purposes.202


C O M M U N I S T P I E T I S MOne should therefore not, as explained in Chapter 2, have an 'interest' in joining becausesuch an interest was already filled with 'selfishness' and hence a misguided expectationof camp life. This threat to the camp of becoming infested with 'selfishness' wasaggravated by the ethic of openness whereby the party was open to everyone to join,and this was one of the roles cadres had to negotiate, as representatives of an electorate.The real challenge for leaders, Hari explained, did not consist of weeding out potentialrecruits with a dodgy background from honest, working-class youth but in allowingthose who were sincere about joining a collective struggle to become cadres. Becauseanyone could potentially fit this description – even Hari with his middle-class and drugabusivebackground – there was no way to know a priori if a person was fit to become aYCL whole-timer. The whole point of the training was exactly to turn „roaming‟ and„self-interested‟ youth into sincere cadres.First people came because of their own interests. Some changed and nowwork for the revolution. Some never change and they leave the party. Thereare two groups of people. The other group joined because they are determinedto struggle for the revolution.As this short quote from Hari makes clear, joining was itself seen as a potentialprocess of transformation, and it was this process that the party needed to focus on. Ratherthan filtering cadres out at the camp's boundary, YCL leaders therefore preferred tolet them join the camp and give newcomers a chance to prove their sincerity. Hari likenedthis process to the indiscriminate way rain filled up a big bowl, rain being newcomersand the bowl representing the party. During rain, the party had to allow itself tobe filled up, and then the process of filtering had to be done later. This, as he explained,was part of a natural revolutionary process:In the path of the revolution, the coming and going of cadres is a naturalprocess ... There is not such a measuring rod that can divide the good andbad cadres. But the revolution never stops. A black one can come and awhite one go but the revolution does not stop. 7 After all, it is politics andtherefore even bad persons can join. Even a thief will find a space in theparty if he wants to change himself. Like me, I was a drug user before and Iwanted to change myself. If I want to be good I need to be given a chance toprove myself. If my attitude is like before, I will leave. If one likes to takepart in the transformation, the party welcomes them. That is why we arehaving a big bowl and after we collect rain, the process of purification willbe carried out later on. That filtering process will have to be done sooner or7 Black and white here do not refer to racial distinctions but rather to a moral tainting. What heseems to be saying is that even when 'bad persons' join and good ones leave, the revolutionaryprocess continues.203


C H A P T E R 6later. Good persons will go ahead and those who are bad will go back in theparty.Though Hari uses 'purification' as a metaphor, the story he tells underlines the factthat the struggle of cadreship is turned in on the self, on cadres‟ ability to activelychange. It illustrates that the distinction between 'two types of persons' is not external tothe self but rather constitutes two aspects of selfhood that are in conflict: one part focuseson entertainment while the other embraces an ethic of sacrifice; one is guided by selfinterestand the other by compulsion or necessity; one selfish, the other collective. Rohitonce explained to me how he saw the first years of his membership as a kind of phasehe had to pass through where 'each and every task is difficult' and cadre life as a wholewas 'very complex'. This was the phase in which one could rid oneself of the entertainedself, and Rohit saw camp life as being organized in a way to facilitate the message thatlife here cannot, and must not, be enjoyable:Let me give you an example. A few months ago 4 people came here to joinWT [whole-timers] and said 'we will work under the terms and conditions'.But it was no joke, and even after 4 days they couldn't stay. Their life wasluxurious; they couldn't adjust. We are an army, people's army (janamuktisena) and work for the people.There were many stories like this, of people who came and went quickly because oftheir 'self-interest' and proclivity for entertainment, and it is part of the theme I havebeen discussing throughout whereby outside life was linked to a kind of corrupted moralityand selfishness that the camp had to shield itself from. In a very telling conversationI had with Suraj around the time when he met his coming love but before he usedthe trope of love and the filling of hearts to talk about his faltering commitment, hetalked instead of the possibility of earning more money: 'If I am not 100% committed,'he explained, 'I cannot stay here. It will be embarrassing if I leave, and I will think that Icould not manage and that 500 Rupees is not sufficient for me. [But] If I do not have thecommitment and a kind of seriousness in the party later on, I will leave.' Suraj was alreadyaware of this potential split between desires and that one could not be a cadre unlessone was completely committed and, by referring to money, it was as if he could alreadylocate, within himself, where his faltering commitment might come from: The'interest' of money was clearly a desire that was at odds with one's revolutionary 'compulsion'.88 There were a few examples of cadres who spoke of reconciling this perceived split between adesirous and an ethical subject through the notion of happiness, though in quite different ways.Rohit spoke, for instance, of his love of the great revolutionary figures such as Marx and Leninand acknowledged that he was living through a period of romance by which, obviously, he204


C O M M U N I S T P I E T I S MWhat I have tried to raise here is the way this fundamental distinction was expressedthrough the trope of entertainment, of a life of 'luxury'. This adds an element tothe discussion of authority and punishment of leaders in Chapter 3, because every person– even hardened revolutionaries – were seen to carry this seed of a corrupted, selfishbehavior within them. It was an internal battle that every single revolutionary continuouslyhad to fight and, when one failed, it was seen to be one's inner drive for enjoyingfood, money, status, love and so on that had taken control of one's desires. Keshav wastoo tied to food, Banhi was too tied to the love of her family, and other cadres who leftwere similarly criticized for not being able to renounce the desires and obligations tiedto an outside life. Renunciation was therefore an important step in attaining revolutionarysubjectivity.Because cadres were not turned down at its borders but were instead invited to usethe camp to transform themselves through the 'rain-bowl method' of separating the fitfrom the unfit, this meant that it was through their lives as cadres that people had toprove their worth. The camp therefore had to bear the burden, so to speak, of filtering,and this process was made all the more complicated because membership was at thesame time a way for persons to change themselves; an initial incompatibility couldhence be transformed into its exact opposite and camp life therefore aimed to perform adouble role: it had to monitor for selfishness while also assisting those that were sincerein their pledge of transformation. One of the curious effects of this was to automaticallyturn camp life into a place of hardship. It was as if hardship came to signify the oppositeof entertainment, so that one could drive out damaging desires through frugality. Renouncingessential aspects of life outside the camp, such as the enjoyment of eating,therefore also became a way to 'purify' oneself. The complicated role of the camp asboth a filter and motivator meant that renunciations were part of a system of controlwhereby warning cadres of hardships and punishing them for engaging in specific activitiesdeveloped in tandem.„RULES AND REGULATIONS‟The way cadres learned to relate to food, we have seen, was part of a general effort atrenouncing essential aspects of life outside the camp that cannot be understood withoutlinking them to a parallel censoring of illicit behavior - precisely the type of 'selfish' andmeant something quite different from Suraj. Himal, in turn, spoke of being happy because of hislove of the people as I mentioned above, and Hari felt that if you have 'a dream of the revolution',then you are always happy. He therefore distinguished his own 'job satisfaction' from thecontinuous complaining of his family members.205


C H A P T E R 6'entertained' self that the camp had to filter out or assist in transforming. The stress onnot expecting – and hence not desiring – food was similar to the way cadres were toldthat they should not expect fulfilling or comfortable sleep as an element of the camp‟sphilosophy of labor. In that case, it was also both the availability and the quality of sleepthat was questioned and, as a very minimum, it shows that the cadres had to renounce,i.e. not desire, that which they might not get anyway. But the above discussion aboutself-sacrifice illustrates how renouncing eating was not simply a way of aligning one'sdesire with the conditions of cadre life but also expressed a belief that such a desire waspotentially harmful; the problem of tasty food was not that it was not available but thateven it if were, cadres should be able to abstain from wanting it.This becomes even clearer when we consider the behavior cadres were instructed toleave behind when they became revolutionaries. Although the details varied, in generalcadres were not allowed to drink, smoke or be flirtatious, and if they were 'caught', asthey said, they would 'surely be punished'. These various warnings and prohibitionswere referred to as the „rules and regulations‟ (niyam shiyam) of the party though therewere no codified rules to my knowledge and cadres‟ explanation of what they containeddiffered somewhat. Santosh, who had been a member since Jana Andolan II (April2006), explained what he told new cadres about the rules: “You are not allowed to drinkalcohol, smoke cigarettes and chew tobacco (surti), and if you are caught with that, youwill be punished.” Suraj, in turn, had highlighted another aspect of the camp rules, as hehad been informed of them by Pradeep: “You cannot flirt with girls; you cannot flirtvulgarly; you cannot put your hands on their shoulders and touch them; you won't sleepcomfortably; we might have duties in the middle of the night and go anywhere and doany kind of works. Outside habits of drinking and smoking you cannot do them here.This is the army and you have to obey strict army rules."Suraj‟s expressions of the party‟s niyam shiyam shows that cadres did not necessarilyperceive a distinction between hardships and prohibitions. They were all aspectsof the conditions of cadreship, tied to a life on the „inside‟ as opposed to the „outside‟ –distinctions cadres used constantly in their daily talk; bitra (lit. „inside‟) was both thecommunity of party members and camp life while bahira was the social and politicaloutside. As such, niyam shiyam (rules and regulations) were part of the requirementsdiscussed in Chapter 3 about living under the party and attested to the kind of sacrificecadre life was supposed to be. Leaders, in particular, saw the niyam shiyam as the firstsign of the cadres‟ willingness to submit themselves, even before they expressed a specificmorality. It is in this sense that they were rules; decrees of compliance where resistanceand incompatibilities could be swiftly measured and reacted upon. By contrast,206


C O M M U N I S T P I E T I S Mif cadres bowed to the camp‟s culture of conduct, there was a good chance that theywere serious about becoming maobadi.What I find interesting about the niyam shiyam is that while they were formulatedas prohibitions on behavior, there was no exact agreement as to what they encompassed.Santosh‟s and Suraj‟s alternative renditions of the rules illustrate this point and speak asmuch to their own sensitivities – particularly if we remember Suraj‟s own transformationaround the issue of love and a preoccupation he expressed with treating womenproperly. Accordingly, some cadres mentioned the ability to renounce a salary as a necessaryhardship, others highlighted the rupture of kinship ties, while Banhi for instancesaid that all she remembered was that she had been told that she had to „confine herselfin a disciplined manner‟ and could hence not go outside – something that was obviouslya concern for her. One of the senior members of the camp who advanced from being aSection Commander to a secretary of one of the Ilaka Committees during my stay reflectedthis variability in the way he saw the rules:When we recruit we first ask whether he or she can fit into our situation ornot. If he or she is ready then we recruit. We try to teach that we have todrop superstitious knowledge and fit in to the norms and values of the 21stcentury …[these are] the policies of the organization. We have strict ruleslike having to be on duty all night. If they want to be in entertainment thenthey cannot fit. For instance, we come and go to Ratnapark [downtownKathmandu, a typical end station for demonstrations] for nothing [i.e. nosalary]. Those who cannot do this may leave the office after just two days.The rules and regulations are based on the party's politics. At times they canbe stronger [and]it also depends on the outside situation.Chandra‟s explanation illustrates the fact that not only may the rules vary accordingto the party policy but that the rules are a kind of interaction between leaders andwould-be members which, from the leader‟s perspective, tests whether he or she can „fitinto the situation‟. Hence, Chandra stressed the household duties as the primary rules,rather than illicit behavior: „Getting up at 4 o'clock and doing physical exercises, theyhave to read newspapers, cook tea, and food, and wash clothes.‟Rules on behavior were thus part of a more general concern about cadres‟ suitabilityto their new lives. This echoes Suraj‟s paraphrasing of Pradeep‟s warning above onthe party‟s niyam shiyam where the renunciation of comforts goes hand in hand withlimitations on behavior because „this is the army‟. It is quite unsurprising that Pradeepwould allude to the army as expressing the party since he had a long background in thePLA and that Chandra, in turn, did not.What these various ways of formulating the context of the rules primarily indicateis that they did not constitute a very strict frame for guiding cadres‟ actual behavior, and207


C H A P T E R 6this was most evident with the rule against smoking. This was quite a clear rule thateveryone could agree to, and allegedly two cadres had been beaten by the dais withsticks on an earlier occasion for being caught smoking. But there is another way of consumingtobacco in Nepali which is known as surti, and which consists of rubbing tobaccointo the palm of one hand with the thumb of the other. During my time in the field,and particularly in the new camp, this was done quite openly by Nischal and Tara, andSuraj claimed that „everyone is doing it openly in front of the dais‟. Suraj explained thatthis had been an issue of debate within the camp earlier because some of the cadres whowere not used to tobacco had criticized others for taking surti and could not understandwhy there was a ban on smoking and not the same restriction on surti. To this charge,the surti cadres – and Suraj counted himself among them though I never saw him takingit – charged that: „If surti affects the revolution, then we will quit it right from this day,but if it doesn‟t have any effect on the revolution, then why should we?‟The point of the rules was therefore not to be prohibitive but simply to instill ameasure of self-discipline reflecting a broader requirement for moral behavior andsomething each cadre had to turn into a personal fight, eliminating his or her own seedsof selfishness, desire and entertainment. Despite being somewhat open to interpretation,this did not mean that they were random rules but rather mirrored the leaders‟ – andpossibly society‟s – concern with „spoiled youth‟. The rules were important becausethey indicated YCL cadres‟ projected moral superiority in comparison with their agegroupoutside the party – despite what they de facto accomplished. Suraj, for instance,explained how the ban on smoking, though he clearly challenged it, was necessary becauseit communicated to others that they were „agenda changers‟:The main thing is that we cannot do it[smoking] inside the camp as otherpeople will feel that YCLs are smoking. Just for the image. We cannot evensmoke outside (bahira) because people will think that we do not have onecommon perception, and that YCLs are also smokers and drinkers. Previouslymany [outsiders] used to smoke and drink but now they don't smoke inthis area. What I am saying is that we are the agenda changers and we haveto make many progressive changes in society, so if we start to drink andfight and smoke then it doesn't make any sense.In addition to not necessarily being absolute, and to concern submissiveness, ruleswere thus also tied to the identity of being role models, which takes us back to Keshav‟sunhealthy desire for food: he could not be an agenda changer if he was more focused ongetting meat than getting up at 4 am and standing guard all day during an important politicalevent.There was therefore a sense in which renunciations and rules overlapped: on theone hand, they concerned the ability to submit to party commands, in which case they208


C O M M U N I S T P I E T I S Mhad to be seen as rather strict and comprehensive, even leading to punishment, while onthe other they expressed a moral comportment of selfhood and varied with individualpreferences. It is therefore useful to think of renunciations and rules as a pair. Renunciationscan be seen as a type of sacrifice because it is that part of oneself which one mustleave behind at the border of the camp in order to enter, but it is through rules of behaviorthat entering into a relationship with the camp also implies entering into a new relationshipwith oneself.COMMUNIST PIETISMWe arrive now at the question of communist pietism - why cadre life was not simplyabout renunciations and rules but about becoming a hero who needed to direct his unhealthydesires in order to facilitate his own transformation. Apart from specifying whatone should do for the camp community – wash, cook, clean – rules also suggested whatone needed to do for oneself: denounce comfort and abstain from immoral behavior,although it varied from person to person as to where the actual „inner struggle‟ lay. Renunciationstherefore became linked to a specific trajectory of personal change madepossible through prohibitions, and while punishable behavior seems at first to be quitedifferent from not being too attached to either food or sleep, it was precisely as practicesof pietism that they were tied together because both became moral comportments of theself.In his analysis of medieval monasticism, Talal Asad also addresses relations withthe self although he does not particularly develop this through the concept of pietism.One of the insights one can infer from his analysis, however, is that pietism is part of awider 'economy of desire' whereby actors actively seek to remold themselves by conformingto a program of reform. What they are seeking to transform are the very dispositionsthat constitute the self and, in the context of Medieval monasticism which he explores,this implies historically specific emotions such as humility and remorse (Asad1993:134). Asad illustrates how a vocabulary of moral sin is developed that constantlyendangers the soul, and it is these „unlawful desires‟ that the monastic program of reformmust deal with. What is significant about Asad‟s analytical take on the transformationof selfhood is that he sees renunciation not merely as a rejection of one aspect ofthe self but as the construction of a self-policing function. This means that renunciation,and particularly the rhetoric of renunciation, is already a particular way of mobilizingthe desire of individuals to transform themselves. Rather than just a tool for „manipulatingdesires‟, such a perspective allows us to see piety as „creating a new moral space forthe operation of a distinctive motivation‟ (ibid.:144).209


C H A P T E R 6By employing this idea of pietism with regard to cadreship, it becomes possible tosee both the warnings of hardships and the specific limitations on behavior as delineatinga moral space that 'guides' cadres' motivation for change. The point of this guidanceis not to show a priori which desires are illegitimate but to let cadres understand thatsome desires are potentially sinful because they lead to wrong priorities. There was, forinstance, no explicit formulation of the dangers of being too attached to food. It was justthat, in Keshav‟s case, this proved to be a fatal desire for his cadre subjectivity, and thevarious ways of delegitimizing good quality food were ways of „creating a new moralspace‟ that could motivate him to transform himself. Similarly, Suraj‟s reaction when hewas criticized for taking surti was that as long as this did not have a counterproductiveeffect on his revolutionary behavior, it should not be seen as illegitimate. Surti, in otherwords, was not the product of an unhealthy desire because he had the correct priorities.As a regime for transforming selves, the camp can thus be thought of in terms of the notionof pietism with its particular way of mixing rules with a „self-policing‟ function thatultimately places the burden of attaining correct desires on the cadres themselves. Thislink to pietism is actually more appropriate than it initially seems because it resonateswith a way of preparing cadres for disciplining themselves. In Asad‟s analysis, it doesnot become quite clear how the motivation to transform oneself is generated within themonasteries, and Asad operates both with an idea of submission as the principal „virtue‟of monks while his analysis shows that the monks are also recruited to redirect their desiresbeyond the principle of obedience.I think Charles Hirschkind‟s ethnography of sermon listening in contemporaryEgypt (2006) is helpful in furthering the investigation of piety as a moral disciplining ofthe self. Hirschkind builds upon and extends Asad‟s frame and argues that piety in thecontext of Quranic verses implies turning one‟s body into an adequate „host‟ for receivingthe divine message. This is, for instance, done when popular preachers employ astyle that includes the audience in their lectures, thereby „continuously recruiting hislisteners to vocally and morally participate in the oratory he performs‟ (ibid.:85). Consequently,he shows how submitting to the words of the sermons also involves a performanceof the body that revolves around correct gestures and which are part of a widerethical comportment proper to a pious self. Such gestural complicity in transformingoneself can therefore be seen, as Hirschkind argues, as a type of illocutionary act in theAustin sense (Austin 1976) where performativity expresses an intentionality on the partof the subject. Rather than simply an empty gesture, viewing it as an illocutionary actsuggests that in performing a given act, the subject is also expressing a commitment tothat which the act points to. To cultivate a capacity for humility and regret, Hirschkind210


C O M M U N I S T P I E T I S Margues, can thus be thought of as „felicity conditions‟ (also an Austinian expression) forthe body‟s experience of God‟s closeness.The YCL camp differed from both Asad‟s monasteries and Hirschkind‟s Islamiccongregations by not being guided through detailed rules or scriptures that clarified thecomponents of pious selfhood. Outside the loosely formulated rules on illicit behavior,cadres were left to themselves (and each other) to figure out how to attain the moral personhoodof revolutionaries. The focus on respectful interaction between cadres describedin Chapter 3 can possibly be seen as one such ingredient but it was an insightthat followed from experience and not a formal requirement of behavior that cadreswere told about: this is possibly what Rohit was referring to above with cadre-life being„complex‟; there was an openness in this guiding that was quite confusing, and whichcould lead to experiences of uncertainty. Yet there was one interesting aspect of camplife that I think can be analyzed as a type of „felicity condition‟ for transforming theself, although this had nothing to do with codification but was expressed rather througha certain spatiality of the camp‟s dwelling quarters.Maybe as a reflection of the camp‟s overall function as a spatial delineator betweenoutside and inside, the layout of the camp‟s interior itself had a significant impact onhow life could be led and, by extension, what spaces were available for the self. Earlierchapters have described the camp‟s layout, the congruence between section structuresand values of collectivity with the spaces available to cadres, and the disciplined natureof camp life through basnu and an „always-ready‟ form of waiting. What I want to suggesthere is that this spatial power of daily life was a „felicity condition‟ for cadres‟ pietism;that the way the camp‟s everyday life functioned and the inability to escape thiscultural logic of Nayabasti turned camp life into a gestural performance of the self thatwas in sync with the ideals of the moral cadres.A clear indicator that both Nayabasti and the new camp can be thought of as a felicitycondition for cadres‟ moral improvement was the functionality and layout of thecamp whereby simply living in this space guided cadres into proper behavior: residingin one's room or the common areas was a way to put one at a service of a command andit meant living ethically because there were no temptations of camp life that could distractthe cadres' selves. Hence there were no radios to play music, cadres did not havemobile phones on which to engage in conversations outside or to play games on, andthere were no other types of reading available except for party literature and seriousnewspapers. Moreover, the lack of availability of personalized or individualized spacesthat cadres could withdraw into downplayed the individual side of their lives. Symbolically,this was underwritten by cadres‟ name change when they entered the party andthe fact that cadres had few personal belongings, and the little they had was mainly pro-211


C H A P T E R 6vided by the party (shoes, two sets of clothes, sports shoes) and kept packed away insmall sports bags. One could not guess the individuality of any of the cadres either bytheir name or by observing their „private‟ section quarters. In fact, the entire camplooked as if it was minimally inhabited – orderly, sparse and functional. What was leftwas the collectivized space that I analyzed in Chapter 4. As a 'felicity condition' thecamp's space thus became a part of the illocutionary performance that cadres were enactingin order to orient themselves in the right direction.Against this formality and monotony of space, it was a surprise to enter Pradeep‟sroom, which formed a contrast to the discreet packed-away personalities of the otherrooms. His private room was full of personal belongings, furniture, literature and with apermanent mattress that doubled as bed and sofa, while a framed picture of himself andhis martyred wife at their party wedding hung over his bed. Housing also the camp‟sonly computer and its few plastic chairs, Pradeep‟s room indicated that the spatial frugalityof the remaining rooms was not a random coincidence; it was the point. It was thespace appropriate for someone who was in the midst of being formed in the ethical doctrineof Maoist party cadres - selfless, obedient, prudent. Camp spatiality was dedicatedto these values in order to help cadres attain these essential qualities.The cadres‟ ability to renounce their desirous selves was therefore never a wholly'private' problem, and this is one way we can read the elaborate operations of the campin guiding cadres in their struggle - from prohibitions over structuring daily life intoroutines and disciplined waiting, to laying out the camp's spaces in a way that is befittingof a person who desires to forget his selfishness and become a good revolutionaryby emphasizing the collective through the right kind of labor. The cadre and the camp –not wholly unlike Bourdieu's Kabyla house which was also seen to contain a „fullness‟(Bourdieu 1990) – became reflections of each other: the layout of the camp reflects theidealized cadre, one that does not need a place to hide his private stuff away becausethis cadre does not even desire such a private space; and the cadres learn to think oftheir own struggle as one of shielding themselves from a corrupting outside such thatcivilian life, in part, comes to represent the harmful side of one's person – outside is alurking desire for entertainment that needs to be held in check.Such a 'collectivization' of space can be seen to fit with the notion of communist pietismthat I have discussed here. Through a combination of force and motivation, that is,through rules and renunciations, cadres were 'guided' to transform themselves and particularlyto rid their beings of entertainment and attain an ethical self. What Pradeep'sroom illustrated was that this situation was not everlasting but merely a phase that cadreshad to pass through in order to be eligible for a proper status as party cadres. Itshowed that the camp acted as a mechanism of separation to protect the cadres from a212


C O M M U N I S T P I E T I S M„polluting‟ outside, but only temporarily. Eventually, when they had 'matured', that is,learned to control their harmful desires as Pradeep had, they were ready to combinetheir separated selves with a fuller mode of being that might also include (limited) accessto entertainment, families and private histories. When cadres automaticallyweighed their priorities in favor of revolutionary piety and thereby understood that theyhad to subsume anti-social desires such that their cadre-self became a primary frame forbehavior, „automatic‟ as it were, then they were ready to leave the camp.CONCLUSIONThis chapter has argued that one significant aspect of whole-timer sacrifice were thepractices of renunciation and moral behavior with the purpose of ridding cadres of a desiring,selfish self and attain a superior character as „conscious youth‟ who could act asguides and representatives of janata through their moral superiority. While the least noticeableand possibly the strangest aspect of Maoist cadreship, it is also the most importantbecause in a situation where the entire revolution was put on hold and the cadres‟contribution to a political solution was negligible – given, among other things,their difficulty in competing with the ideological fluency of cadres from the studentsunion – it became crucial to establish their legitimacy as party activists by differentmeans. The „conscious youth‟ ideal was aimed at producing new national role modelsand became a significant way for the YCL leadership to claim authority in the changedpolitical landscape and establish a procedure through which to „screen‟ motivated cadresin an environment in which tens of thousands had signed up to participate in theCPN-M‟s popular social revolution. Internally, it also helped to produce an environmentof patience that was still filled with significance. By waiting, cadres only improvedthemselves for the moment when they could participate in public work. Communist pietismwas not the end of the world; on the contrary, it anticipated engagement for it was away to charge the cadres, to prepare them for what was about to come.Revolutionary sacrifice, I have argued throughout the past chapters, demands thesubmission of the whole person to a collectivity both as a principle and as a communityof fellow members that one must labor for, and it pronounces the ideal of selflessness,which cadres must also practice on their own bodies as a struggle against anti-social desires.At the center of this process stands the camp as an enforcer of a separation betweencadres and the outside. This is true in a double sense: on the one hand, the campseparates cadres from the harmful substances of civilian life – its kinship obligationsand selfish drives – and on the other, it constitutes a temporal break in the cadres‟ ownlives, between their former and reforming selves. Cadres must first of all be willing213


C H A P T E R 6„victims‟ as the sacrifice will fail if it is not entered into voluntarily. Hence the numerousefforts at passing the responsibility of proper conduct onto the cadres themselves;these are ways of confirming one‟s faith and rehearsing what it means to give for thesake of a principle beyond oneself.Piety as a process of working on the self should be seen as an extension of the submissionand laboring cadres must engage in as participants of camp sections; it addressesthe same problem (the duality of an outside-inside) but it is now represented as existingwithin the cadre himself and not merely in the distinction between the party membersand civilian life. There is, in other words, a congruence between the two types ofstruggle, the external and the internal: they are both cast in opposition to a radical otherness,in the first instance to outside life and in the second to selfishness, and they bothlead to proper cadres; by adopting correct behavior and carrying out one's assignmentsin accordance with commands or, as in the situation discussed in this chapter, by learningto say no to entertainment and similar vain and bourgeois values. As we shall soonsee, this is crucial for establishing cadres‟ sacred power in activist operations.Communist pietism exemplifies a different aspect of cadres‟ sacrifice than the discussionsof the two previous chapters because what is at stake here is no longer the establishmentof the revolutionary soldier – one who must submit to the party hierarchy,labor for the collectivity and wait for work and leadership, all in the name of training,efficiency and necessity; in contrast to the soldier, who is an wholly internal figure ofthe organizational strategy, the hero is not only a hero for the party, but equally so forsociety, and is therefore also a public figure. The analysis of pietism therefore occurs inthe interstices between the outside and inside of the camp, even if the cadres themselvesdo not enjoy the freedom to move between these two spheres yet. If this chapter has,then, investigated the way in which cadres were ritually prepared as sacrificial objects,as sacrifier in Hubert & Mauss‟ terms – through a process of renunciation and piousbehavior that involved a cleansing of the „impurities‟ associated with their former lives– the last two chapters will analyze how this allowed cadres to convert camp sacrificesinto public sacrifice, precisely because they had now become sacralized.214


7 ACTIVISM BETWEEN THE PUBLICAND ‘THE PEOPLE’In their public participation, what I refer to here as cadres‟ activism, YCL members engagedwith members of the public, whether in low-key local programs or in much largerparty events. One of the significant changes to occur when cadres moved outside thecamp was that they were no longer hidden away but became publicly visible. Here, theirroles as apprentices in training to become proper cadres disappeared, and they appearedinstead as fully-fledged representatives of the party, visible to an outside gaze. As adeeply controversial political phenomenon, YCL was constantly watched by politicalcommentators and lay denizens to measure the real intentions of the CPN-M in the guerillas-turned-politiciansphase: were their intentions honorable? Had they really committedthemselves to democracy? YCL was the key to unlocking this mystery, and it was animage cadres had to balance with the political resoluteness of a militarized organizationthat they also had to be seen as representing in order to be avant-garde revolutionaries.Cadres were therefore extremely concerned with their image when they venturedoutside Nayabasti. Once, when Suraj and Tara had apparently spat from the roof ofNayabasti onto the street, Pradeep came flying up the stairs and immediately scoldedthem for spitting. The words that accompanied his reprimand were: 'How can we be respectedby people if we behave like that?' Pradeep‟s concern was well reflected in thepractice of regularly lining the cadres up for a roll-call on the school ground acrossfrom the camp before leaving for a program. 1 Cadres would be arranged section by sectionwith their Section Commanders up front, and would perform a few military steps inresponse to Pradeep's commands. These were moments for displaying YCL‟s disciplineand moments of inspection: Pradeep might inquire as to the whereabouts of missing ca-1 Roll-call is a military expression and generally designates the formal act of calling out namesfrom a roll, i.e. checking that everyone is present. But one of the camp leaders told me that itwas primarily used as a preparation for upcoming events.


C H A P T E R 7dres and reprimand those who did not wear their uniforms or in other ways acted with alack of discipline. Such disciplinary inspection did not happen in the camp, but onlyoutside and formed part of general repertoire of public behavior. In these outside performances,which often preceded the work they were about to carry out, cadres werecalling into existence a relationship with a public; it was for their benefit that a specificand highly disciplinary mode of conduct was enacted and it served to show that theYCL was a 'disciplined army' and united force of dedicated youth in line with the selfimageof the organization.Why this concern with appearance in public and how was this significant for cadres‟activism? As I shall be exploring in this chapter, the public came to embody a roleas witnesses to cadres‟ sacrifice and therefore became active participants in cadres‟ politicalagitation, imbuing activism with a significance it would otherwise not be able toentertain. Not all party work, of course, is about sacrifice and not all of it is eventful butwhat I seek to establish here is the close integration between acting in public and theprocedures of revolutionary sacrifice. When cadres step out of the camp and participatein public work, not only are they being judged and evaluated by lay citizens, they alsoinsert themselves forcefully into the political field for their actions to have effect and benoticed in the first place. Here, the force of „the people‟, janata, that cadres have nurturedthrough their camp sacrifices comes into action and it is the nature of this relationshipbetween cadres, the public as witnesses, and janata as a revolutionary force that Ishall be analyzing in this chapter. In cadres‟ public work, the figures of the public andjanata co-exist and turn activism into a complex mix of political statements and revolutionarysacrifice.The chapter is divided into four sections: first, I describe a political procession thatare known as julus and are one of the archetypical forms of Maoist activism; next, I turnto a discussion of the historical and political significance of the julus and show howMaoist processions build on and extend this tradition, paying special attention to the relationshipbetween the public and cadres that is established in these public events; thethird section explores the notion of jana-sakti „people power‟ in order to reflect on cadres‟position between the public and janata, respectively; the last section analyzes twospecific cases of activism, first a chakkajam (traffic closure) as an example of cadres‟ability to establish sovereignty in urban space, and, lastly, a „black flag‟ happening as anexample of a proper political sacrifice in which cadres‟ sacrality is essential for appreciatingthe symbolic power of this ritualized happening.216


A C T I V I S M B E T W E E N T H E P U B L I C A N D ‘ T H E P E O P L E ’PROCESSIONS AS A POLITICAL STATEMENTOn February 25, almost the entire camp participated in a large parade to celebrate theCPN-M‟s recent merger with the Communist Party of Nepal (Ekata Kendra Masal), 2and to inaugurate the official unification of the two parties‟ youth wings, the YCL andthe All Nepal People‟s Youth Union. Tiny, colored pamphlets were distributed aroundKathmandu prior to the event with information about the importance of this unificationfor completing the peace process and they carried the following catchy headings: „Mobilizationof massive youth force for radical change!‟ and „Unity, national awarenessand development, our campaign!!‟Because this was an important public celebration of the party‟s reform process, thecadres wore their uniforms, although due to the cold temperatures, it was only theirtrousers that stood out as a common dress code, and not even everyone followed suit. 3For the cadres, the parade started outside the camp, reflecting that they became publicfigures the moment they stepped out of the house. After dressing, they lined up in thestreet in one long row with the Section and Vice Commanders in front, and made a formidableimpression on the small path in the middle of a Kathmandu neighborhood: theywere standing erect, military style with raised chins and eyes gazing straight ahead, focusedon nothing in particular. When they had settled into this formation, Nischal performeda head count, and ordered everyone off to the Jorpati junction. Several smallflags were brought along but a few extra-long ones had also been manufactured and,thus equipped, the small troupe, with one of the Section Commanders keeping speed,made its way through the neighborhood. Although the parade was still silent and quitesmall, there was resoluteness in its march: flags raised, speedy passage and an amalgamatedbody that marked a contrast to life in the camp, which was invisible from the outside,and did not concern itself with a similar appearance of unity. The way the cadresemerged from their habitat, so to speak, and entered the public space, in itself marked akind of passage into a different role.At Jorpati Chowk, the first march died down as cadres mingled with a growingcrowd of people – all local party cadres, including the YCL part-timers, who had been2 This is where the Maoist Party officially changed its name to the UCPN-M, the United CommunistParty of Nepal – Maoist.3 The previous days had been very hectic due to the late announcement of the program, and theoffice had been given the responsibility of preparing 1,000 flags on sticks, half of which weredistributed to the party leaders of the local VDCs, and the other half to be picked up by the remainingparticipating organizations. In the end, the remaining flags had to be transported bymotorbike to the paraders to make sure they were all put to use. The two leaders of Ilaka 1 and2, Marut and Ganesh, were in turn in charge of contacting and mobilizing the YCL PTs andsympathizers through the local VDC leaders.217


C H A P T E R 7mobilized for the event. Nischal had gone ahead on the camp‟s second motorcycle (Pradeephad his own) and was already here, trying to coordinate the gathering. He later toldme that he had officially been in charge of this pre-march gathering. The police hadbeen notified beforehand and were helpful in setting up traffic barriers at this otherwisebusy road junction. Buses passing by with cheering cadres on the roof were thrownsome of the extra flags that had been brought to the gathering. The preparations for theparade were quite significant. The marchers – roughly 200 people – were lined up intwo groups. Banners were being unfurled with the same text as on the pamphlet headingand entrusted to core party members of each group. People were instructed to form twolines behind the banner carriers, presumably for the parade to look more orderly, but italso had the effect of distributing the entire parade into two long snake-like processions.Already, what was a hotchpotch gathering of disorganized people buzzing around in ajunction had now been transformed into a disciplined troop stretching more than 100meters in the direction of the city center.Each group was assigned a slogan leader. He read out the central slogans for thecampaigners to repeat and although there was still no movement, the event alreadylooked and sounded like an impressive parade. The slogan leaders yelled the slogansand the group responded, repeating the central verb twice. So „Long live the YCL‟ wasechoed with a collective „Long live, long live‟. This way of repeating only the refraincreated a strong rhythmic effect, and although the singular voice of the entire sloganwas easily drowned in the commotion, the collective chorus rose above the crowd andcreated a recognizable pattern: dum-dum; dum-dum. Furthermore, although many sloganshad different wordings, their central verb was the same (such as „long live‟) andthe end result was that the passing of the march, once it moved off, was accompanied bythe audible and repeated cries of two starkly different messages: „Long live, long live‟(djindabad) and „Death to, death to‟ (murdabad).Almost an hour passed before the march set off from Jorpati Chowk. In the meantime,many had lost the initial fervor of the disciplined lining up, the slogan shoutinghad died down, and a generous lump of tika (red vermillion powder) had been applied topeople‟s foreheads. As people started marching, they also resumed shouting and the parademade its way towards the Ring Road where it was to meet up with members approachingfrom other directions. At Chabahil – as this Ring Road junction is called –people were waiting in their thousands for the different marching groups to approach.The cadres from Nayabasti cheered and greeted their party friends although they had tostay inside their own banner column and, although there was a momentary standstillwhich threatened to turn into confusion, the entire parade soon started off and made itsway southwards, easily filling the wide road as it charted forward.218


A C T I V I S M B E T W E E N T H E P U B L I C A N D ‘ T H E P E O P L E ’With the growth of the parade, it also lost much of its structure. Two kilometerssouth where the parade turned off the wide Ring Road and headed directly for the citycenter, what little was left of the individual columns, dissolved completely. Many otherthings changed: sloganeering could no longer encompass as many people and becamemore spontaneous and hard to separate from general cheering; leaders were freed fromtheir coordinating function and were engulfed by the marchers; and marchers foundthemselves freed from the disciplined constraints of the original form and able to engagein conversations with friends and other party members in what – from the perspectiveof being inside the movement – now felt more like a casual stroll than a march. Aswe approached Khulamanch, the casual pace slowed to a halt as participants from allover the valley had arrived at roughly the same time – an hour before the inaugurationof the public program inside the gated field with a large scene for speeches and performances.On the last stretch of the march, when leaders could relax more, Nischal alsofound me and had me turn my head to look at the impressive onslaught of moving bodiesand buoyant reds that kept flowing towards us.For the cadres, the event ended with their arrival at Khulamanch – just at the pointat which the official ceremony, which lasted 3 hours took off. They all sat down againstthe fence behind the stage and simply waited for the program to finish. Many of the othermarchers had filled the grass area in front of the stage but, like the cadres from ourcamp, the streets outside were also filled with party-dressed people sitting and waiting.Throughout the day, cadres had neither food nor water to drink, except for the two bottlesI bought them while at Khulamanch, and they had to wait until evening for theirdalbhat meal in the camp. As the program came to an end, Nischal got up, had everyonestand in a line, performed his head count and marched the cadres to a bus outside thatwould take them back to Jorpati. A few got excited and found a seat on the roof, whichis generally illegal but, since the buses had been rented by the party, and the day wasmarked by its control of the streets, this mattered little.Parades or processions (julus) like the Unification Parade constituted a prominentpart of cadres' outside work, were always public, and ranged from internal party celebrationsto concrete political demonstrations for or against a cause. A significant aspectof julus‟ was their size, and this was clearly related to their prospect for making a strongimpact in the public sphere. 4 To make a julus big was therefore a significant aspect of4 In preparing for these events, Pradeep and other leaders were usually hectically engaged inmobilizing support from part-timers and sympathizers, even to the point where Pradeep onceasked one of my assistants to bring some of his friends. As I explained in Chapter 2, many potentialmembers started their relationship with the Maoists by participating in their events. Here,the part-timers‟ plea to leave whatever they were engaged in behind and come running was verywelcome and quite necessary. Without this, the party would only be able to rely on its few full-219


C H A P T E R 7its success. Because julus‟ were so clearly big public performances, they almost alwaysincluded sloganeering as a way of communicating with the public. In this sense, sloganscan be seen as a type of condensed message about the event that represents its core politicalexpressions. From the Unification Parade, these were the two simple statementsthat effectively read „long live us‟ and „death to our opponents‟. This was in spite of theparade‟s official aim of being an internal celebration of the party. As in other cases Iwitnessed, however, drawing a discursive line between „us‟ and „them‟ was an inescapableaspect of any julus, indeed of almost all types of public work. It was a way ofcharging cadres‟ participation with a clear political message and of effectively communicatingthis to onlookers and thereby involving the public as spectators in the drama.These features of the julus underline how they were events that were conducted forthe sake of a public. Without the presence of spectators, these events lost their significanceas political messages, and parading therefore had to take place in front of the eyesof the public, engaging them through dramatization. Striking visual events were thereforealso popular because they broke with the quite worn script of parading. Two examplesare the masal julus, a march with burning torches that was performed after dark,often in obstinate silence, and the MC Julus, in which a convoy of motorbikes woundalong wide streets with passengers carrying flags and cheering eagerly but without slogansbeing shouted or banners wielded. They both played on the recognizable – the coordinatedmass event, the movement through the landscape and the use of strong symbols– while simultaneously breaking with it: reversing the intense soundscape in themasal julus or refusing to communicate through words as in the MC parade. Through acombination of different repertoires, such julus‟ were a creative way of activating thepublic gaze and hence accomplished exactly the same as the regular processions, ofwhich the Unification Parade was a good example. The strongest of these were possiblythe julus that involved burning huge effigies of unpopular politicians such as the presidenthimself. Here, fire, slogans and parading all came together in one big spectacle,and instead of the political program at the end, cadres assembled in the center of Kathmandu(usually Ratna Park) and performed the last rites of the dying personae in a dramaindicating that, here, words did not suffice to expunge evil from the body politic.Processions were therefore essential tools through which to act politically and inorder to be successful they needed the presence of a public. During the Unification Parade,bystanders had lined up along the curb and watched the passage of the thousandsof Maoist cadres, some responding to the cheering but most people forming a silent contimecadres but, as soon as the part-timers came running, a local Jorpati event could muster upto several hundred participants instead of the two handfuls of WTs from the camp.220


A C T I V I S M B E T W E E N T H E P U B L I C A N D ‘ T H E P E O P L E ’trast to the activity taking place inside the julus. What role was it that the public weregiven in these events and why was their presence so important? The case of the UnificationParade is interesting not merely because it brought many of the lessons cadres hadlearned inside the camp into the public sphere – how acting collectively amplified theirindividual contribution manifold; how the success of such an event required their submissionto the roles they had been assigned as paraders; and how ignoring thirst andhunger as aspects of disciplined behavior was necessary for keeping their place in andfocus on the event – but above all because it transformed camp sacrifices into a politicalstatement through the mediation of the public as an audience, or, as I shall be analyzingit here, as witnesses.THE PUBLIC AS WITNESSESThe political julus builds on a long history of religious processions that also mobilize alarge number of people and turn the everyday (dis)order of the city into spectacular performances.5 Public processions are therefore part of a general cultural repertoire andthey easily rival, in sheer size of participants, the Unification Parade. 6 The elaborate ritualssurrounding both daily and festive practices of public religion are vital elements inunderwriting the social order, and, in the case of Hinduism and the large national festivals,also the political order. This has to do with the divine underpinning of royal authoritywhereby the king is seen to embody the god Vishnu and ruler and citizen areunited by their functional integration into a cosmological order (see Riaz & Basu 2007;Höfer 1979; Burghart 1996a). 7 Religious ceremonies express and legitimize this order5 Throughout the year, several large religious festivals claim the streets in huge processions suchas the Rato Macchendranath Jatra in Patan where I lived: a large chariot carrying a very tallspire is first built and then towed around by devotees to religiously important sites accompaniedthroughout by daily ceremonies until it is returned to its starting point. The entire processionlasts for more than a month and its final ceremonial climax is a festival of its own, known asBhoto Jatra where previously the king but now the president participates as the central figure.6 Towards the end of February, Hindus celebrate the birth of Lord Vishnu in the festival knownas Mahashivaratri. Devotees from all over visit the Pashupatinath temple on this occasion,which lies on the way to Nayabasti from my apartment and, in 2009, apparently several hundredthousand people participated.7 Royal authority in Nepal is based on a conception of the king as a descendant of the god Vishnuand the protector of Hinduism in the Himalayan realm (Riaz & Basu 2007:135; van denHoek 1990). In this cosmological order, Nepalis are not simply citizens in a polity but share inVishnu's divine substance albeit subsumed under the king, as his subjects. The entire politicaledifice of royal power is therefore based on a logic of encompassment (e.g. Dumont 1970) thatconnects ruler and ruled through the principle of divinity, with the king as the apex figure. Eventhe caste system, codified in the Mulukhi Ain Code of 1854, which legalized the hierarchicalsocial order (see Höfer 1979), is therefore not merely a model of social organization but articu-221


C H A P T E R 7either directly or indirectly, such as in the 8-day-long festival of Indra Jatra that I shallrevisit a little later, where the virgin goddess Kumari is paraded around the city in herchariot, and the king (now the president) pays homage to her, receiving her blessing.Urban processions in Kathmandu were therefore automatically politically important.While the julus draws on the script of religious processions in the way it usesthe streets for its parades and through the close association with public authority, it invertsits crucial relationship with political power from one of support to one of dissent.Maoist urban politics relies on the streets as a crucial tool to connect citizens with theirrulers and can be seen as a „democratic‟ device that potentially invites everybody intocollective action. In Nepal, streets are not just 'empty signifiers' or politicized stages forthe state's display of power, as has been argued with regard to the Soviet regime(Yurchak 2005); they are a part of the functional integration of society, and it is thiswhich makes them so powerful as sites of political contestations. 8Unlike ritual processions, whose stake on public space is not enacted to challengestate authority and make claims vis-à-vis other groups, political processions deliberatelyseek to occupy public space in ways that are disruptive of the social order. In this scenario,the public in their role as spectators represent the neutral ground between thedominant order and the disruption of the political procession. In their opposition to ritualprocessions, political julus played on the wide gamut of symbolic connotations thatmade the Hindu celebrations so effective for the throne. Here the role of the urbanspace, Kathmandu's in particular, was unmistaken, and the focus of this spectacle wasthe public in their ability to witness the unfolding of this political happening. The significanceof the public for the julus therefore not only concerned the capacity of the eventto put on a spectacular show but also its ability to occupy important urban spaces thatamplified the political message of the parade. Kathmandu is built on a center-peripherymodel whereby political significance decreases with distance to the center, turning theperipheries outside the Ring Road into more than just socio-economic margins. For thelates the different parts of the celestial Brahma's body. Each caste is 'endowed with the qualitiesto perform a particular function so that the universe might survive as a whole' (Burghart1996a:193).8 The streets' openness to collective action has become the signature of contemporary politicalactivism, as several authors have noted in their analyses of the new forms of „voice‟ that thisenables (Kunreuther 2009) or when lamenting the „illiberal‟ consequences of mass actions that,like the parade above, impedes the individual autonomy of other citizens by transforming thepublic into a politicized domain (Lakier 2007). This, above all, attests to the enormous powerinherent in collective protest‟s use of the public space, and has been seen by political actors as a„remarkable new source of power‟ that enables them „to make the government listen‟(ibid.:266). Because they have turned out to be such successful ways of staking claims, evenvery local grievances often adopt the form of public protests, and they have consequently becomea widespread and daily feature of urban life.222


fic. 10 What we can infer from this discussion on the julus as a deliberate spectacle is theA C T I V I S M B E T W E E N T H E P U B L I C A N D ‘ T H E P E O P L E ’cadres, who were already located in the margins of politico-religious power, to marchfrom the periphery towards the center of Kathmandu with its royal palace, the seat ofgovernment, the military parade grounds (just by Khulamanch) and the Durbar Squareof the ancient king was also to enter the heart of political power – to automatically politicizeone‟s parade. 9This center-periphery structure of the city made routing of julus quite predictable:start at the fringe and then move in. For large parades, where the heart of the city wasthe goal, the fringe was often defined as the Ring Road. This had a double impact. Sinceit constituted an imaginary encircling of the city, it came to signal the limits of politicalpower, and a movement in the opposite direction implied the implosion of the marginsinto the center, which was exactly the Maoist‟s political claim: a rule for the majority;an inclusion of the marginalized; a party representing the will of the people. A paradefrom the periphery to Kathmandu center already marked it as a distinct type of politicsthat brought the voice of the people – and the force of their presence – into the nucleusof power. The second impact was visibility. By making a Ring Road junction a meetingpoint, the organizers ensured that it would be noticed by the city‟s busy commuters and,in the likely advent that traffic flow was affected – how could it not be – the parade‟smessage could reverberate through the growing queues of stalled vehicles. This not onlyaltered the speed of a modern city‟s everyday life, enacting a kind of ruralization ofKathmandu itself, but also forced its citizens into passive spectators of the transformationof the city‟s transport veins into crawling and people-infected political phenomena.In this reading, it was no coincidence that it was Chabahil that served as the majortransformation of the Unification Parade from a small, local parade that made sure toonly fill out one half of the road to allow traffic to pass on the other side, into a massevent that engulfed the city in a much more dramatic way and had to be opposed to traf-central importance of performing in front of a public and thereby including them in theevent, albeit in a way that firmly locates them on its borders. This is true both in a symbolicand spatial sense; the public is spatially on the outside of the parade, engulfing it9 The central parade ground (Thundikhel) stretching out from Khulamanch is encircled by a longone-way but 4-5 lane road, and prestigious parades would make sure to do a round of the paradeground before landing in or around Khulamanch, which constituted the most popular end stationfor the larger julus. Although julus were a widespread phenomenon for various political groupings,not many were allowed to march to the city‟s center and lay claim to its large traffic veins.This also meant that they could not become as politically significant.10 Chabahil also constitutes the point at which the city becomes periphery and coincides with theborder of the camp‟s operational area. From the camp‟s perspective, Chabahil is where theirmandate as the YCL stops and the (exclusive) authority of the party begins.223


C H A P T E R 7by its presence, and they thereby come to take the role of spectators who witness theunfolding of the event and, through this act of witnessing, partake in it. By witnessinghere, I mean first of all a relationship of consent that is based on a division of labor betweencadres and the public in which the first act and the latter re-act in response to thecadres‟ performance. Cadres‟ activism can be understood here through the Arendtiannotion of action as the activity of the public sphere par excellence because it is definedby „word and deed‟ and is like „a second birth‟, where we take upon ourselves the 'nakedfact' of our existence (Arendt 2000:178).Action, the only activity that goes on directly between men without the intermediaryof things or matter, corresponds to the human condition of plurality,to the fact that men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world.While all aspects of the human condition are somehow related to politics,this plurality is specifically the condition [...] of all political life. (Arendt1998:7).The products of action, as Arendt notes, take place directly between men and this meansthat cadres‟ outside work was set on a stage that actively involved non-party members.So while action marks a „beginning‟, Arendt explains, its flow is unpredictable becauseit is conditioned by human relationships with its „conflicting will and intentions‟ andnewcomers in this environment must always respond to the crucial and penetratingquestion: „who are you?‟Cadres‟ political activism, particularly in these coordinated events where only theyparticipate, are indicative of such a notion of action with the crucial distinction that thepublic is reduced from being co-authors of „this plurality…of political life‟ to being itswitnesses. As the public sphere of action is the place of „words and deeds‟, activismimplies taking the initiative and then waiting for the response. If cadres are confrontedwith the question „who are you?‟ when entering the public sphere, and reply throughscripted and disciplined activist action, their reply in turn anticipates a reaction, sincethey are now part of an open and interpretive field. Through the julus the public areasked to participate by spectating; to be impressed, to cheer, to greet, to comment, tohelp, to get out of the way and – hopefully – to understand and agree.This witnessing could take many forms and was not restricted to julus or even toparty events; cadres talked, for instance, of how they expected their family members to'understand' their decisions to become whole-timers, and this was but one way of sayingthat their kin should not just accept but should appreciate the importance of what cadreshad given themselves to. Witnessing implies a measure of support. Cadres wanted toknow that they could rely on support from both their families and the public at large,and a large sub-set of work outside the camp consisted in social service campaignswhere the public were the direct benefactors of cadres‟ „words and deeds‟. Referred to224


A C T I V I S M B E T W E E N T H E P U B L I C A N D ‘ T H E P E O P L E ’by cadres as volunteering, swayamsebak, such activities included garbage cleaning,building new youth organizations, or solving community disputes and were central toYCL‟s self-image as a „pro-people‟ movement and a grassroots organization. Throughvolunteering, cadres sought to build relationships of mutuality outside the politicalcommunity which they could then draw on in the spectacular, more politically loadedevents, when they, in turn, needed help to politically charge them. This way, volunteeringinvited the public to adopt a favorable outlook towards the YCL's work.The public were thus important participants in cadres‟ activism, either as the targetsof volunteering that benefitted people directly or through their ability to show tacit supportthrough witnessing. The public constitute the actual people that cadres encounterand engage with outside the camp and are participants in the political field that the Maoistsperform in. As such, it is the public to which cadres must be answerable to and myinterlocutors were painfully aware that they were constantly being criticized in the mediaand that this tampered their public image. Their concern was not with this type of„propaganda‟, however, but that locals in Jorpati and in the streets of Kathmandu wouldalso be critical of YCL youth because this would delegitimize their actions in the eyesof the public and whence turn their witnessing on its head: from expressing (political)support to becoming criticism. But why was the public so important for the cadres?Why did the activists need this support? To understand this, I turn now to a discussionof jana-sakti (people power) and the similarities between the public and the notion ofjanata, which turn the former into not just any type of witness but a particularly potentone for Maoist activism.A HISTORY OF „PEOPLE-POWER‟Cadres' sacrifice is not merely another type of waiting but designates a desire to incur atransformation in the social sphere, which, as we have seen, begins with learning totransform themselves. Outside the camp, the question of this social transformation becomesrelevant again, and is encapsulated in the figure of janata as the object towardswhich their sacrifice is directed. But wherein lies janata's divinity that turns it into sucha strong locus of authority?From the moment people become interested in joining the Maoists, they start developingan understanding of the idea of janata and, through the cadres‟ training andpolitical experiences, this slowly turns into a relationship. The notion of Maoist sacrificethat cadres‟ swear their allegiance to stands on the shoulders of their relationship withjanata, since it is for the sake of „the people‟ that they leave their life as laborers behindand embark on a journey of cadreship (see Chapter 2). In the camp, the relationship to225


C H A P T E R 7janata is nurtured through the logic of the party hierarchy, through ideas of simplicityand necessity, and in the experiences of self-sacrifice, although it remains largely implicitand dormant. This is what public work changes; here, janata bursts out into theopen and becomes a tool for politics whereby the cadres‟ role as representatives, as theavant-garde, is activated. Janata becomes a weapon that charges activists‟ power, and itdoes so by being historically constituted as a political force; a legitimate authority of„rule by the people‟ that Maoist cadres can utilize as long as they possess the uniquequality that allows them to represent the people, the quality I have analyzed as sacrality,and the quality which follows from their camp sacrifices. 11Comparatively, the constitution of „the people‟ as a political authority has been anoverriding principle of sovereignty since the revolutionary wars in 19 th century Europe,to the extent that – in the West – we take it for granted. But in Nepal, this transformationof political authority from a divine principle outside the body politic to beinglocated firmly within it has taken place only in the latter half of the 20 th century andmost dramatically with Jana Andolan I (1990) and the subsequent struggles betweendivine kingship and republican powers, of which the CPN-M has only been the mostsuccessful (see van den Hoek 1990). 12 The succession from monarchical absolutism torepublicanism with the 2008 election gives the impression that the battle to institute thepeople as the over-arching sovereign principle has been won, but this is far from thecase, and the CPN-M‟s priority both in and out of government has been to consolidatethe republican principle – formulated through their New Democracy concept – andweed out other claims to, and practices of, sovereignty.In this battle, the question, the problem, the definition, and the power of janata,have been crucial, and while „high-brow‟ party politics can be seen to engage with thedefinitional and institutional aspects, the „mass‟ politics represented by the YCL is concernedwith the latter, with the power of people to act; a power cadres strive to representand enact. It is this particular dynamic that I want to analyze through the optic of sacrifice;janata as that which cadres sacrifice for is also the principle that fills cadres with aspecial power. It is a reciprocal relation with a figure similar to the role played in religioussacrifices by divinity. People power, as I shall analyze it here, is the republican11 To the question of what agency cadres have in the camp, where they must submit themselvesto a range of inconspicuous sacrifices, the answer is then that these were the necessary preparationsthat enabled them to act with force, as Maoist activists, in the public sphere.12 An intriguing aspect of Nepali Maoism, that I have not been able to explore here, concerns the linksbetween royal sacrifice and revolutionary sacrifice, particularly the idea that the king is the nation‟s supremesacrificer and hence invested with a special sacred quality. It serves to show, at the very minimum,that repertoires of political sacrifice have structured public expressions of sovereignty in Nepal, and itwould be interesting to explore the extraordinary success of Nepali Maoism in light of this historical alliance.226


A C T I V I S M B E T W E E N T H E P U B L I C A N D ‘ T H E P E O P L E ’equivalent of the divine, and cadres, by standing between janata and the public, are ideallysituated to mediate this force or, as I shall show, wield it.The people's movement in 1990 (Jana Andolan I) marked a turning point in theconsolidation of public authority in Nepal, as it prompted a change from monarchicalsovereignty as the only model of political authority to the multi-party system whereboth power and authority became factionalized. What mattered here was not merely theshift but just as importantly the way in which it occurred; through a people's movement,through a 'democratic revolution' (Hoftun et al 1999). In an extremely interesting paperwritten shortly after Jana Andolan I, Vivienne Kondos (1994) traces this shift based onher own observations of public events in this period. She argues that something fundamentallychanged during these key months of protest that led to the restoration of themulti-party system after almost forty years of royal rule. This was the emergence of anidea of „people power‟, a form of collective identity that drew on a different source ofenergy and authority than sanctioned by the crown.As explained, political power in Nepal has historically relied on an embodiment ofboth secular and ritual authority in the figure of the king, and the establishment of publicorder has accordingly been defined in terms of a unity represented by the kingship.All Nepalis are seen to share in an identical substance, from king to commoner, whichreflects the unity „within the subtle body of Vishnu‟ (Burghart 1984:120). Against sucha homogenizing identity, the emergence of a new populist self that could not be encompassedor shared by the figure of the king took shape against a background of „betrayal‟.The state forces‟ violent reaction to the public protests is analyzed by Kondos as a „warmachine‟ that with its „brutal potency‟ turned „civil relations into a field of war‟ (Kondos1994:273). The state‟s „betrayal‟ turned the sameness of the holy substance into afault line that differentiated people‟s former roles as national subjects from the enemiesthey had now become. This led, in rapid order, from „doubt‟ to „agitation of public imagination‟to „outrage‟.If the state could bring in a war machine, if the palace could remain disturbinglyquiescent when intervention was needed most, if the state couldnot prevent the martyrdom of the young – the state was then seen as not onlybetraying the people but betraying itself to them. And that became imprintedin public consciousness (ibid.:273-274).Of course, the betrayal of the state was still not the betrayal of the king and the divineprinciple, but the coordinates of public order that rested on the state as expressive of the227


C H A P T E R 7people's will (jan bhavna) 13 was shattered and brought the possibility of a different relationshipwith power into view.Kondos explains how resistance in public life prior to Jana Andolan I primarilytook three forms. One of these was chakari, which I have already discussed (see Chapter5). However, where I stressed its quiescent nature, Kondos highlights how this typeof obedience can also be seen as a shrewd way of 'tapping a source-force after a stringof subtle negotiations' (ibid.:275). Yet it still revolves around 'favoritism' and the abilityto get the 'source-force' to act on one's behalf and only thereby 'realize one's desires'.Adding to this is another modality of action that is more clandestine and which Kondosrefers to as 'chicanery'. It builds on cleverness (calakh) and entails 'acts of secrecy, ofsabotage, prevarications, pretense and a play with illusion'. A third mode is betterknown outside Nepal and has been theorized by de Certeau as 'making do' - the realm oftactics (de Certeau 1984). Here, one proceeds through obedience, evasion and negotiationto win small battles and then retreat. There is then a procession of disobedience atplay here. Whereas chakari is based on 'intercession' and relies on gifts and flattery,'chicanery' is organized through elusiveness, and 'making do' on the pretense of accommodationthat is effectively turned into a kind of weapon.The new form of public resistance encapsulated in the protest of 1990 differed fromthe other forms by directly challenging authority, and is seen by Kondos as an 'antithesis'to authority as such. This allowed for the emergence of a set of public activities thatwere direct and openly defiant. Kondos mentions the gherao in which a victim is encircledby an aggressive mob and thereby turned into prey, and there is also the rituallypolluting practice of 'shoe-garlanding' that entails throwing a pair of dirty shoes over thevictims' shoulder (ibid.:275). Although none of these practices were new in 1990(Burghart 1996c:316), they signaled a willingness to openly challenge the state and toemploy violence in injuring their victims. The moral outrage she describes led to commonpeople being able to act suddenly as punishers, and this inspired an enormous confidence.What followed was a momentum of mass resistance that was contagious andwhere the usually cautionary measures of resistance were disregarded and people becameengulfed in a direct confrontational struggle that eventually led to the downfall ofPanchayat rule. This democratic revolution stands as the cornerstone of modern Nepal,the event that transformed subjects of the king into active citizens who could publiclyexpress and contest political views.13 See Burghart (1984:121). He argues that, after 1960, both the Panchayat democracy and theinstitution of kingship together came to be seen as representing Nepaliness and 'established anexclusive, natural and non-contractual basis of membership in the polity.'228


A C T I V I S M B E T W E E N T H E P U B L I C A N D ‘ T H E P E O P L E ’While Kondos stresses the protest as an antithesis of authority, I think it is morecorrect to see it only as an opposition to one form of authority - the royal model thatdominated during the Panchayat years. People power also drew on a source of authority,only a completely different one, and the challenge consisted of freeing oneself fromthe quiescent subjectivity present in the royal model in exchange for an active form ofresistance that was made possible in the second form. Richard Burghart provides a succinctanalysis of this shift of authority from a teachers' strike during 1984-85, i.e. beforeJana Andolan I (Burghart 1996c). The expression of agency within a hierarchical orderwhereby individuals are subjects of the king and yet part of the same substance does nottake the form of speech (ibid.:302) but rather of passivity and self-restraint and this iswhat accounts for the prevalence of, for instance, chakari and chivalry. In a contextwhere speech is associated with authority, how do subjects come to have the moral authorityto speak?Burghart shows that the teachers‟ strike proceeded through three distinct stages thattraced the process of gaining a voice independent of the public order, or, more precisely,a voice proper to another conception of political subjectivity. The first move was for thestrikers to wear black armbands, a deliberately silent expression of discontent whichwas just meant to inform one's employer that the workers had a problem, similar to alimb of the body sending a signal back to the brain that something in the body politic isnot working. Delicate and tactful, this 'token strike' merely pointed out to a benevolentlord that his subjects were suffering but 'agency [was] still vested in the employer'(ibid.:311). In the next step, the teachers made their discontent public through a lanternprocession. While this amounted to a public criticism of the king - 'the kingdom had becomeso dark from injustice that honest men now found themselves obliged to guidethemselves by lantern-light' (ibid.:312) - it was still not vociferous and retained the idiomof kingship. People were still loyal subjects who were pointing out weaknesses inthe realm but who expected the king, as the sole figure of authority, to sort out the misery.It was only in the third stage when protestors directly started attacking representativesof the state and forcefully shut down the city that they had gained the authority toact. The ruler was seen as weak and 'a weak ruler is neither empowered nor entitled torule' (ibid.:314). Only at this point, argues Burghart, did doubt in the legitimacy of theregime appear, and this unleashed the teachers' moral entitlement to act. The processionof the strike through the three stages step by step opened this moral space of agency andat the same time diminished the king‟s authority.While Burghart's analysis shows very well how the emergence of doubt and hencethe transfer of agency to subjects preceded Jana Andolan I, what was born in the 1990revolution was first and foremost a confidence in the power of ordinary people to229


C H A P T E R 7change the political course of the country. Kondos quotes one of the Jana Andolan participants,who attest to this sense of public strength: 'If we can bring democracy, don'tyou think we can handle this man who has abused his power ... democracy came fromthe actions of ordinary people...jana-sakti. We'll show him that we can't be pushedaround' (Kondos 1994:282). The reason this history is interesting here is because itshows the establishment of the idea of popular justice that has accompanied the rise ofthe Maoist movement, and which continues to inform the conception of relevance inherentin present-day activism. The new struggle from below that jana-sakti came toexpress needed a new locus of authority since it was openly defiant of the establishedorder, and this became the notion of the people, janata. Not in the sense expressed by ashared divine substance channeled through the authority of the king, but janata as theprinciple of a democratic republic in which it designates, as Zizek writes, the 'part of nopart'(Zizek 2008). The people in this conception are an irreducible principle that hasnothing to do with actual individuals. It is just as abstract as the idea of Vishnu andtherefore a true locus of authority.What jana-sakti (people power) points to, and the reason Kondos' article is so important,is the simultaneous manifestation of janata as an absolute figure of authority,and common citizens as the legitimate representatives of this force. There are two figuresof people present here, and therefore also two distinct forces: there is the 'part ofno-part', janata, and then there are the wielders of popular justice, jana-sakti. Kondosfocuses on the latter since they are the main protagonists of the revolutionary procedure14 but I think there is analytical leverage in drawing a sharper distinction betweenthe two because this allows us to see the role that Maoist cadres perform in public. As apolitical force and won through their participation in the People‟s War, the CPN-M embodiesthe principle of jana-sakti; a condensed and focused form (organization) whichcan deliver instant and direct justice - and here I quote Kondos' description of jana-sakti– 'whose source of power is the people' (Kondos 1994:281), that is, janata. Most ofwhat Kondos describes for the revolutionary activity of ordinary people through theconcept of people power applies directly to the Maoists in peacetime: the strong focuson delivering justice and thereby daring to take the law into their own hands; engagingin a struggle where the stakes concern the masses; a principle of 'transgression' thatdrives them to venture beyond the familiar and the usual; the momentum of collectiveaction; courage.14 Kondos also indicates the existence of a collective principle that inspires these new modes ofaction although she clearly struggles to find a proper analytical frame for it. She speaks, for instance,of „the existence of a particular kind of collectivity' and 'a consciousness of its particularpotentiality' (ibid.:282) as well as claiming that 'the source of power is the people' and that 'anew ontology has emerged' (ibid.:281).230


A C T I V I S M B E T W E E N T H E P U B L I C A N D ‘ T H E P E O P L E ’During times when ordinary citizens are not engaged in revolutions, the CPN-Mrepresents their power and energy, their sakti. Revolutionary modality is not an exclusivelyMaoist subjectivity since during popular uprisings all citizens become part of thesemovements. It is just that the cadres are professional revolutionaries, doing thisaround the clock and for many years to train themselves into being the perfect instrumentsfor janata's will. Cadres thereby come to enact, at least from their perspective, arole that is latently present in society, and which is only impeded by the weight of dailylife which ordinary people must bear. It is therefore not simply that collective politicalaction is legitimate, but it is also desirable; it expresses the popular justice that is otherwiseonly present during jana andolans. In a similar way to how the king is an embodimentof Vishnu (van den Hoek 1990), Maoist cadres also embody, and not just represent,janata in their enactment of jana-sakti. In this scenario, ordinary people – oncethey no longer act in the name of the people and exert people power – return to becomingmore or less passive spectators to the unfolding events. This is what is implied bythe term public, and why their role as witnesses is so central to the cadres' work. Thepublic carry within them the original seeds of jana-sakti and are thus able to sanctioncadres' activism as either legitimate or illegitimate expressions of janata's will.Witnessing the sacrificeThe public‟s role as witnesses therefore carries a special weight, and if we now return tothe case of the Unification Parade, it becomes possible to analyze what, exactly, witnessing,implies in the context of a sacrifice. To repeat, the argument here is that camplife prepared cadres by sacralizing them and that it might be fruitful to explore whetherpublic activism can also be understood through the analytical frame of sacrifice. Howmight julus‟ express a revolutionary sacrifice and what is then the relationship betweencadres and the public in the role as witnesses?Sacrifices require a witness in order to be acknowledged as such, and what the publicacknowledgment of sacrifice accomplishes is to confer upon it a political legitimacythat it did not and could not attain in the camp. 15 If we look at the spatial relation betweencadres and the public in the julus, we can analyze how the public‟s role as witnessesis accomplished; cadres are at the center of the event and the public outside butencircling it. This dynamic replays Hubert & Mauss‟ elaboration on the spatiality of thesacrificial rite. A distinguishing feature of their model of sacrifice that is helpful in per-15 The notion of the martyr is precisely the political name for a self-sacrifice that has becomeacknowledged. One of the problems with present-day cadreship, from the Maoist perspective, isaccordingly how to turn revolutionary sacrifice into martyrdom – to routinize and politicize it.231


C H A P T E R 7ceiving this point lies in the spatial model of their theory of consecration, which describeshow objects attain sacrality by being shielded by a 'series of concentric magiccircles' wherein sacredness increases as they approach the center where the sacrifice istaking place:…in the Hindu rite the construction of the altar consists in describing amagic circle on the ground … [it] consist[s] in tracing out a kind of seriesof concentric magic circles within the sacred area. In the outer circle standsthe sacrificer; then come in turn the priest, the altar, and the stake. On theperimeter … the religious atmosphere is weak and minimal. It increases asthe space in which it is developed grows smaller. The whole activity of theplace of the sacrifice is thus organized and concentrated round a single focus(Hubert & Mauss 1964:28-29).By being on the perimeter, the public act as a shield between the cadres' sacrality andthe profanity of the outside world and are therefore indispensable to the success of theprimary event; in other words, the public can be seen to attain this essential function ofmarking the weak 'religious atmosphere' on 'the perimeter'.This makes the public accomplices to cadres‟ sacrifice, inasmuch as the witness legitimizesand even facilitates the sacrifice precisely by encircling it. This turns the publicinto active participants in the sacrifice, and it was for this reason, I would claim, thatharnessing a good relationship with the public was so crucial for the YCL. Because theyacted as witnesses to the cadres' sacrifice, their blessing was indispensable to the completionof the sacrificial act, and this is what the dual procedure of working for the publicthrough acts of volunteering and working inside the public as in processions, wherethe latter are reduced to spectators, accomplishes. In processions, the cadre-public relationbecame endowed with an extra layer of signification, as an event that depended onthe latter‟s active support.If we follow this logic through, we can see how from the very moment the cadresmoved outside the camp, they called upon the public as witnesses by performing theirpolitical identities through discipline, unity, uniformity and resoluteness. Because thepublic marked the outer ring of the rite, they also marked the point at which sacralityand profanity blended. In other words, inside the ring of the cadre-public relationship,sacrality remained intact and the public‟s role was to protect cadres from the profanityoutside the symbolic circle. The shielding role of the public is thus dual: internal to thesacrificial procedure of the julus in augmenting the sacredness of the cadres by drawingthe concentric circles of the ritual space; and external in protecting the sacred personswithin the ritual from the pollution threatening it from the outside. The relations cadresform with the public express this duality by, on the one hand, calling on the public asspectators and, on the other, providing gifts and flattery that serve to appease their criti-232


A C T I V I S M B E T W E E N T H E P U B L I C A N D ‘ T H E P E O P L E ’cal evaluation (i.e. „volunteering‟). Witnessing brings together these two features andshows that the public was seen as a powerful agent whose protection was essential foroutside work to be successful.Through this encouragement, the public was effectively asked to act as a protectiveshield around the YCL, between their enemies and themselves. This was possible becauseof the presence of the public throughout the cadres' sacrificial process. Whenmoving into the camp, it was this public gaze from which they had to be protected, asthey were not yet ready to face it, or to live up to its stern judgment. Many cadres waiteda long time before telling their family members of their decisions to quit their jobs aslaborers and become political cadres, and tried to put off this conversation until theymet again. This could take many years and many voluntarily waited much longer thanthe six months proscribed by camp leaders because they did not feel ready to face them– as representatives of a stern, judging public – yet. 16 When operating outside the camp,as illustrated with the case of the Unification Parade, the public was immediately calledupon as spectators even before the cadres reached Jorpati Chowk where the march startedfrom. This re-engagement with an outside gaze was clearly the first stage of the eventfrom the cadres' perspective; it was very important that they demonstrated their cadreness(discipline, resoluteness, unity) because they were being watched and measured,but it was at the same time a way of summoning the public to bless them before theyembarked on their work. As such, invoking the public as soon as they stepped out of thecamp was the first step in a ritualized process that accompanied the cadres from beginningto end. Although their actual work as paraders was only to start a little later, theprotecting shield of the witnesses had to be established at the very moment the cadresstepped out of the camp, preceding, as it were, the actual sacrifice.16 I think Himal‟s insecurity with regard to how he should handle talking to his parents, particularlyhis mother, supports this observation. He felt there were so many things he would like tosay – about the party, about how he loved the people – but was unsure of how to formulate themand, ultimately, of how to make her understand. In the interview where I pressed him to explainwhat he wanted to say and inadvertently took the mother‟s perspective, Himal grew impatientand frustrated and simply concluded: „She must understand.‟ It was as if he was not yet able toexplain it properly to her – which turned out to be precisely the case when we finally went to hisvillage – and he himself saw this as a sign of his immaturity. After the interview, he told me thathe had not replied well enough and that he needed to train more. Fluency in speech is one wayof warding of such criticism and also the tool for communicating to the public in the 'words anddeeds' model I have followed here. There is an interesting parallel here to the case of Dinka sacrificewhere Speech represents the ancestral spirit and hence that which youth must be initiatedinto when they become adults (see Bloch 1991). Although it is a theme I have not been able tofollow up on, there is definitely a sense in which Speech is also what cadres must learn to conqueras an expression of their transformation of consciousness. This was talked about by thecadres as being 'ideologically sound' and was one of the necessary steps for advancement.233


C H A P T E R 7Obviously, there is a limit to this parallel between political activism and ritualizedsacrifices, and I do not wish to suggest that all work outside the camp adopted this formulaor that the theory of spatial consecration is the model through which YCL activismunfolds. It should also be quite clear that this theoretical perspective is not shared by myinterlocutors who prefer the political idioms of Maoism and describe their relationshipswith the public through the notion of the people. Where I see three distinct figures – janata,public and cadres – they see two: janata and revolutionaries. What I think myanalysis shows, however, is the sense in which cadres, from the very moment they becamemobilized, embarked on a conflict-ridden and contradictory relationship with severalgroups of „significant others‟ outside the party – their families, other youth in thelocality, Kathmandu citizens they met qua their identities and work as Maoists – andthat a significant „struggle‟ in finding oneself in the role of the revolutionary cadre hadto do with how to relate to and conceptualize party outsiders. The public, as I haveshown, was very important to the cadres because they (in the plural, as an expression ofa general opinion) underwrote cadres‟ belief in that their activism mattered. My interlocutorsdesperately wanted their sacrifice to mean something and something which wasneither about what the party or they personally benefitted from. If all they met outsidethe party was criticism, it was very difficult to sustain this idea and cadres were thereforequite concerned about engaging in activities that went against public well-being ormet with public resistance.In the last section of this chapter, I want to explore this triadic relationship betweenjanata, the public and cadres in order to show how these are useful categories withwhich to think about Maoist activism. In addition, the two cases I describe also havedistinct spatial qualities that I believe adds to the analysis of activism as building on (inthe first case) or directly expressing (in the second case) a sacrificial structure. The firstcase considers a traffic obstruction (chakkajam) and the second a secret „black flag‟happening.OBSTRUCTING TRAFFIC AND WAVING BLACK FLAGSIt is a warm September morning in Kathmandu. The annual rainy season has not beenable to break the brown cloud that hovers above the valley and the leaves on the scatteredcity foliage are quickly covered in dust after an occasional and all too short rainfall.I am cycling through the dirty city to meet the cadres at Chabahil, as I was told onlyan hour ago that they were not in the camp but participating in a chakkajam - a forcedobstruction of traffic. I approach the Chabahil junction from the north and pass by thepreceding junction (Gaushala) at the famous Pashupatinath temple. This important Hin-234


A C T I V I S M B E T W E E N T H E P U B L I C A N D ‘ T H E P E O P L E ’du site, as I explained earlier, had been the center of a heated controversy since last December.Gaushala, which was otherwise packed with buses and often controlled by trafficpolice because commuters rarely obeyed traffic lights, was now half empty. This stillmeant that there were hundreds of people, including young men who were running firstin one direction and then in another, seemingly in response to the truck of anti-riot police(the Armed Police Force) that had just arrived and was unloading its cargo. Theregular city police were already in place patiently trying to put out the tires that the protestorskept igniting but it was not until the Armed Police Force arrived that the antagonismturned into a fight (or, rather, chase).I tried to spot my friends from the camp but did not recognize any, although I knewthat they had been called upon often to take part in the local battles of the templepriests. 17 I got on my bike again and continued northwards towards Chabahil, approximatelyone kilometer away. The road was empty save for a few people walking on thisdesolate stretch of the Ring Road, and soon the thick and pitch-black smoke of burningtires filled the horizon. I edged myself past these protest monuments and could now seeChabahil further downhill. I was not surprised to find it full of people and empty of traffic.I was soon asked to get off my bike by a couple of eager young men patrolling thejunction but was surprised that they were not cadres from the camp. Instead, I foundmost of them sitting on the fence by the side of the road, calmly watching the situation.So calmly, in fact, that Tara was reading the paper. A few people were arguing with aminibus driver in the middle of the junction, who eventually volunteered to turn backand, on one occasion when a motorcyclist had entered a bit too far into the chakkajamzone, Tara shouted for someone to take his keys and force him off the bike. As severalimmediately ran to stop him, he must have decided that the situation was under controland soon returned to his paper. „We first try to reason with people,‟ he later explained,„and only if they are obstinate do we force them out of their vehicles; they have to understandthat we cannot let them pass.‟The chakkajam is a disruption of traffic for a limited period and in a specific location.On this day, it only lasted from 10 am until noon and, in that period, no vehicles –including bicycles – were allowed to pass between Gaushala and Chabahil. As thisstretch is part of the Ring Road that encircles Kathmandu and Patan and for which noalternative infrastructure exists, it is like cutting a piece out of a water hose; it was avery efficient way of affecting the city‟s daily, hectic traffic flows and the reason why Icould ride my bike so easily between the two junctions (where I was obviously not allowedto cycle). After the party had walked out of the government in May, the cadres17 This was outside their area of operation and hence it would only be if the Kathmandu Districtleadership ordered them to that they would help the local YCL branch in Gaushala out.235


C H A P T E R 7were often in a chakkajam as a way of protesting. On this occasion, it was actually thePashupatinath controversy which had been reignited due to the new Prime Minister‟sfinal approval of the Indian priests‟ contract at the temple, and it was therefore very appropriatethat the chakkajam took place where it did. But the cadres always participatedin chakkajams at Chabahil precisely because this was still their area and was at the sametime the closest they could get to the city and its flow without overstepping their boundaries.Chakkajam formed a popular subset of the phenomena of bandh, a forced closedownof an area that includes businesses and traffic. Bandh is an extreme measure becauseit involves the cooperation of large sections of the population (i.e. the figure ofthe public) and completely alters the pace of the city. Bandh, including the chakkajam,rely on a measure of cooperation from the public and are thus based on a relationshipwith the public, just as is the case with julus and popular campaigns. During a bandh, allstreet-front shops remain closed, and neither private nor public transportation ply thestreets. People who work in private businesses not visible from the street can most oftensneak their way to work although they have to walk to get there, but public institutionsincluding schools and colleges close down. On one such successful Kathmandu bandhduring April 2009, the city changed character dramatically. Gone was the noise and illfumedtraffic that otherwise dominates the city, and people flocked to the streets,strolling casually around the wide empty roads.Bandhs are a popular form of protest throughout the country and often concern verylocal issues. 18 In this way, the bandh is the exact opposite of the state-imposed curfew;it is not trying to enforce stability by shutting people in and momentarily filling the publicspace with absolute authority, but rather trying to disrupt this authority and its routines.The force of the bandh lies in the very idea of disruption, that something which is18 Bandhs are not only used by CPN-M; in fact, it has become a very popular way of making astatement for a wide range of groups and a website dedicated to warning people of bandhsaround the country was established in 2007 and is still recording (as of January 2011) small andlarge incidents around the country (see www.nepalbandh.com). In the period from June 2007 toJanuary 2011, they had recorded close to 1,800 bandhs, averaging more than one per day. Roadsand markets usually become targets but institutions such as schools and colleges also constitutebandhs even though they are private institutions. One should not dismiss the strength of thisscript of forced closure and it is often used as a protest against institutional management such as„padlocking‟ (this is the keyword) the offices at Tribhuvan University to protest at a rise in feesor delays in examinations. Padlocking is ultimately an intra-institutional conflict that does notconcern the public nature of the institution; it is not the teaching facilities that are being obstructedby a padlocking, although this would be the case during a bandh. This is amply illustratedby the curious case of prisoners who want to protest against the managerial mistreatmentof one of their fellows. What do they do, escape? No, for the conflict is not about rights to freedombut a critique of the management. So, instead they lock the gates of the prisons – from theinside – so that the prison personnel are locked out of the institution.236


A C T I V I S M B E T W E E N T H E P U B L I C A N D ‘ T H E P E O P L E ’normally „open‟ can forcefully be closed down. Rather than targeting people – as thecurfew does – the bandh is after structures – the structure of business and traffic. Thebandh plays on the same dynamic as the curfew and, by extension, state power but turnsthe message on its head. Whereas the state, from the perspective of the curfew, prioritizesstructural order over human mobility, the bandh disrupts structural power so thatpeople can flow freely again.Much of the cadres‟ outside work consisted of bandhs or similar public disruptionssuch as dharna (sit-in) where the entrances to governmental offices would be blockedby demonstrating in front of the main gate. Julus, as shown, can also be seen as a formof disruption of city life and, in all cases, this type of spatial havoc was a way of bringingthe figure of janata into daily city life. Bandhs, julus and dharnas – as the most obviouscases – are all shows of force and thereby subject to another authority: the voiceof the people, the will of janata. Bandhs express the arrival of janata in the politicalspectacle and do this through a double move: by enacting a disruption of the official orderand by relying on (shifting to) the authority of janata.Chakkajams and other bandhs – as routinely expressed by Maoist members – wereseen as legitimate because they represented a popular resentment. 19 During a conversationI had with Nihal on the meaning of chakkajam, Kamal interrupted us and presentedhis explanation:I would also like to say something about who does it and why it happens[chakkajams]. When Nepalis demand some basic rights from the governmentand the government becomes indifferent, then the chakkajam takesplace. Also, when a government is speechless, even when the borders arebeing encroached by India, our daughters and sisters are being raped, andwe carry out a chakkajam against the government. We don't do this for entertainmentbut out of compulsion.In CPN-M symbolism, the chakkajam is turned into an expression of class oppression:daughters and sisters are being raped by the Indian security forces, and they are the„downtrodden‟ that represent janata: those who are illegitimately pushed down andwhose liberation is passed on to their representatives, the revolutionaries). The janata asthe downtrodden – which was a very common metaphor used by the cadres – thus indicatesa repressed figure whose very repression becomes a force for the offensive of thepolitical event. But it also seems to constitute a more fundamental source of energy forcadres because the latter become the representatives – out of compulsion (badhetta) – ofthe former. It is reminiscent of vitality of animality that Maurice Bloch describes initiat-19 I discussed in Chapter 3 how some cadres‟ decision to beat the priests was seen as „a commandfrom janata‟; it was the people who were the real authority behind that decision and thusbehind the appropriate use of force.237


C H A P T E R 7ed youth must consume in order to return to life (Bloch 1991). In this reading, the forceof janata is called forth like ancestral spirits not only to legitimize but also to invigoratecadres‟ work.Bandhs express this relationship to janata very strongly. It brings janata into thecity as a disruptive force, as if it were an energy that the cadres could wield like aweapon. When Tara commanded that the chakkajam intruder be stopped, he was thereforespeaking in the voice of janata, from their position of anger, and against the figureof the public, here in the form of the pacified post-revolutionary citizen who has to relyon professional cadres to embody people power. Tara's assurance that cadres try to convincepeople to leave before they force them to illustrates the complicated relationshipbetween janata and the public at play here. While Tara must obey the command of janataand enforce this „law‟ upon the space that cadres momentarily hold, he must bewary of treating a representative of the public with disrespect due to the necessity of itsallegiance. But as the janata‟s command is absolute because it represents a return fromrepression and hence an unstoppable process akin to revolutionary progressions (i.e.class struggle), there is no doubt as to the end result of this small battle. If necessaryTara must therefore impose his will upon the intruding motorcyclists because, in thisspace that the chakkajam represents, it is the authority of janata which reigns, and cadresare its servants.Black Flag event as a sacrificial riteIn some cases, the disruptive force of janata was expressed very vividly. A persistentagenda for the Maoist party was the transformation of rule from monarchy to republic,as explained above. We can see in this the related claim that to rule on behalf of thepeople is incompatible with royalty because it involves another authority, that of theHindu gods. For Maoists this is problematic because it legitimizes the rule of one class– those that hold the key to divine grace – over another, and hence represents a corruptionof power; the power of the wrong authority. On September 4, 2009 – more than ayear after becoming a republic – the erasure of religious authority from the state mechanismthreatened to become blurred by the President‟s official inauguration of the IndraJatra festival. This inauguration used to be performed by the king and was a way for thevirgin goddess Kumari to bless his rule - incidentally one of the founding rituals of royalauthority employed by the founder of Nepal, Prithvi Narayan Shah, after his conquestof the Kathmandu Valley in the 18th century (Riaz & Basu 2007:135). This ceremony238


A C T I V I S M B E T W E E N T H E P U B L I C A N D ‘ T H E P E O P L E ’and the seven days of festivities it heralds cannot commence unless this initiation ismade. 20The Maoists – now no longer in government – were „forced‟ to react to this constitutionalbreach of the oath of republican governance. 21 But whereas bandhs were notillegal if they were announced beforehand – at least this is what I was told by the campleaders – what they were about to embark upon now was. After dalbhat, everyone assembledin front of the camp, this time without their uniforms, and marched – at quite aleisurely pace – down to Jorpati Chowk to catch a bus. Although it was clear that theywere well-prepared – all wearing their running shoes and no extra unnecessary frills –this was not an official event and hence also not one that involved the public, yet. Inother words, the public‟s blessing was not necessary this time, or at least not at the outset.The bus took them downtown to New Road, an upmarket street of electronics shopsand a shopping mall. More importantly, it is also the traffic vein connecting the secularseats of power – the government building and the large parade grounds – to the ancientroyal authority, the religious center of the Durbar Square. The street itself marks thispassage because whereas the first section is lined with extravagant shops on both sidesand is a thoroughly „modern‟ consumer street, the secular flow suddenly stops at theentrance to Durbar Square, the traffic is redirected and all foreigners must pay a fee toenter. Instead of expensive imported goods, the few shops before the actual square selltraditionally produced curd and cow‟s milk – a holy substance by Hindu reckoning. Along, rustic chain marks the entrance to the Durbar Square area, and thus signals thepassage from secular to religious power with its important metonymic extensions: onone side modernity and consumerism, on the other history and traditional produce. 22It was this line that the President was going to transgress and thereby corrupt - froma Maoist „republican‟ perspective - his political mandate by polluting it with an old formof power. We had arrived at 2 pm, knowing that the President‟s convoy would pass atsome point, and we casually lined the narrow sidewalk waiting for his arrival. Therewas nothing to indicate the event that was about to unfold; although we were all withinthe near vicinity of each other, cadres stood and sat in different places, some in smallgroups, some alone, some around the corner and Pradeep and Nischal sat down next to a20 The president‟s enactment of the former king‟s role was one reason why the Maoists scornfullyreferred to him as „the little King‟.21 Interestingly, the previous year, when the Maoists were in government, they had let the processionshappen, illustrating just how fragile such an absolute measure of justice is in day-todaypolitics. The former King Gyanendra, however, was forcefully turned away by party cadreswhen he tried to receive the Kumari's blessing.22 See Mark Liechty for a fine historical analysis of the New Road area (Liechty 2010).239


C H A P T E R 7blind beggar playing music and talked a while with him. It was all very casual and alsovery slow. We waited for more than two hours in this way before anything happened.As time passed, cadres became tenser. Whenever a dark, exclusive-looking vehicleapproached, everyone‟s attention stiffened to see whether it was the right one, and onseveral occasions cadres actually stepped out onto the road and put a hand in their pocketas if preparing for some kind of action. But when it turned out to be false alarm, theyswiftly stepped back and resumed their laid-back positions. I had tried to pass the timeby asking Ashmi and Damini about the difference between two branches of the YCL butthey had quickly hushed me up and said that they did not want to talk about this here.Suraj leaned over and told me quietly: „We don‟t want the police to know we are here;that way we may avoid getting arrested.‟ Despite their seeming relaxedness, the cadreswere thus quite disciplined in not giving away their identity, appearing as casual denizenshanging out in a flashy part of Kathmandu, and increasingly turning their attentiontowards the event that was about to unfold.Traffic on New Road had now come to a complete halt, except for official vehiclesapproaching the ceremony, and the cadres could therefore freely step onto the roadwhen the long black car with the two small Nepali flags on the front finally appeared.„It‟s the president‟, „it‟s the president‟ and quickly everyone stormed into the street,pulling small folded black flags that they had hidden in their pockets out in front of thepassing convoy of vehicles. People flocked to the street, several hundreds of them, allwaving their black flags energetically and cheering loudly at their own success. „MyGod, they made it,‟ my assistant shouted in exasperation, „they pulled it off. See howmany people there are. They are everywhere.‟As soon as the show was over – it lasted less than a minute – Rohit told us to leave.„It‟s over,‟ he said. They had succeeded in pulling off their event and this was enough.It was time to go. But what was it exactly that had happened here? Why was it effectiveto merely wave a piece of black cloth at the impenetrable metal fortress that carried thepresident to his destination? From the perspective of the state ceremony that was aboutto unfold, nothing had changed, and the violent clashes between police and rioters thatfollowed involved neither the president nor our cadres who had (both) completed theirwork.Yet it was evident that a significant battle had been won by the cadres. They werevery happy at the outcome of the event and it marked a milestone in the party‟s recentcall to the YCL for all public performances of the President and the PM to be disrupted.But how was this disruption? Waving black flags is part of an historical political repertoirein Nepal as a way of showing discontent with political leaders. It was, for instance,used in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Rana regime when anti-Indian sentiment240


A C T I V I S M B E T W E E N T H E P U B L I C A N D ‘ T H E P E O P L E ’resulted in Jawaharlal Nehru (the then President of India) being met by demonstratorswaving black flags at the airport upon his arrival in May 1954 (Hoftun et al 1999:39). Itis a very strong expression of disagreement, possibly because it is a collective opposition– all demonstrators are speaking with one voice – but even more so because it canbe seen as an unconditional rejection. As with the burning of effigies, it signals that weare beyond words and dialogue and, in this sense, it is a complete dismissal of a politicalfigure that erupts through public resentment. 23 Pradeep had warned me that we might bearrested and should be very careful, and his words reflect that this type of protest washighly charged and would provoke a strong reaction – which it did. Riot police quicklyarrived and started chasing those remaining on New Road away, hitting them with theirlong wooden sticks. 24If black flags can be seen as a total rejection of a political figure, what is it that actuallyperforms this operation? In other words, what is the „voice‟ that rejects? If cadreshad merely succeeded in showing that members of the CPN-M disagreed with the president‟svisit to a religious site, this would hardly have been surprising, given their longchampioning of Nepal‟s change to a republic, and the fact that they were now in opposition.It is doubtful that this would have led to the cadres‟ satisfaction at the demonstration,or that of my awe-gaping assistant who „recognized‟ the significance of the event(as did, obviously, the riot police). It would, then, not have been enough to „disrupt‟symbolically but had to take a more manifest form as julus or chakkajams did.It was precisely the strength of the symbolism, I would argue, that constituted thisas a proper sacrifice for the people. The black flags are not mere cloths of an inauspiciouscolor that signal unity among the demonstrators; they can be seen - in this case atleast - as the very embodiment of janata. When cadres waved their black flags, whatthey were unleashing from their pockets was the powerful spirit of janata, and it waspitch-black to show the impersonator of corrupt power that janata was angry. Such ashow of brute force can be likened to the penetrating gaze of gods in Hinduism, 25 or the23 This seems to contrast with Burghart's claim that the wearing of black armbands is the onlypossible expression of discontent in a public sphere where the subaltern does not have the authorityto speak as discussed above. Ye, black flags are part of a decisively collective protestand the context in both 1954 and in 2009 was not one of a stifled public sphere in which only aroyal voice of authority was present.24 Although I had thought I could escape this charge I also had to hide with the others. The cadres,however, had been wise enough to leave and it was only my curiosity that had kept me atthe scene. But fighting was not what the event was about for the cadres.25 See, for instance, Lawrence Babb‟s discussion on the interaction between divinity and devoteeas a relationship between seeing and being seen (Babb 1981). The divinity‟s gaze is thoughtto be so powerful that being caught unprepared in its line of sight can be fatal, although it issimilarly the sacredness of the divine gaze that becomes the source of grace. Devotees thereforewish to be seen by their gods but they have to prepare themselves to receive this powerful gaze.241


C H A P T E R 7sacredness of the divine in studies of sacrifice (Hubert & Mauss 1964), which is also thelink I have tried to trace here between janata and divine spirits. It is such a powerfulgesture that it immediately strips the assailant of his or her veil of legitimacy. Before theeyes of the spirits, in front of the true voice of janata, all must stand naked, and it is thispenetrating curse from below that shakes the ground beneath the leader‟s feet.By being met with these miniature spirits on the way down the road, it is as if thecritical voice of the janata was warning him of the sin he was about to commit in crossingthe line separating secular and royal authority, and this warning or declaration wasevident enough; it turned, it seemed, the otherwise festive ceremonies into a symbolicfuneral parade. Cadres and janata allowed the president to pass because he had alreadybeen defamed and desacralized. Whatever he commits after this fateful rendez-vouzwith his benefactors is insignificant because he has been rendered insignificant in theeyes of the public.Once again, it is authority that performs the significant operation here, the authorityof janata. In the black flag event, it must be smuggled in as a de Certeauean tactic andnot allowed to rule through force, as in the chakkajam where it, in his vocabulary, becomesa strategy (de Certeau 1984). What separates the first case from the second is,then, the shift from a strategy to a tactic. In the chakkajam, cadres had „occupied theterritory‟ and could issue commands (i.e. strategies) to deal with trespassing (tactics)but, in the black flag procession, they had to employ the space of the tactical: hiding andbursting out in surprise attacks as the enemy approached. Kondos also referred to such astrategy of 'making do' as part of a pre-andolan repertoire of displaying resistance.De Certeau‟s convincing hypothesis that strategy is power is, however, given an interestingtwist here. Cadres clearly command the space of the chakkajam and they cantherefore „force‟ deviant behavior into the hegemonic script, into „rule‟ or „law‟ (anotherstrategy component). I think, however, the cases show that there is something to begained through the unexpected outburst of a suppressed voice, by the symbolic guerillaattack on a public parade. Cadres were effectively putting the small powerful spirits intheir pockets before leaving the sacred arena of the camp, and they then carried themunnoticed through all the profanity of the city, as if carrying something of extreme valuethat must remain hidden so as not to lose its power. 26 Only at the right moment, whenall the components of the ritual were in place – the territory marked for the sacrifice (thestreet was sealed off from regular traffic in anticipation of the President's convoy); thepublic surrounding the event and thereby shielding it from the profane outside; and the26 I did, in fact, not know what they had in their pockets or what was going to happen in NewRoad, so the curiosity I recount above is quite genuine: it was mine!242


A C T I V I S M B E T W E E N T H E P U B L I C A N D ‘ T H E P E O P L E ’victim approaching the altar dressed in power – were the spirits brought out wieldingtheir terrible power.Because they were hidden until the last moment, nobody noticed that what wassupposed to be a ceremonial ritual had turned into a sacrifice of the president's politicalbeing. Even before he could cross the polluting line to the Durbar Square, New Roadhad become a „magic circle‟ with everything prepared for the sudden arrival of the janatathat could turn the entire ceremonial edifice around. The president thought he wasriding to increase his power by sealing it with a drop of royal authority but instead herode through a sacrificial ritual that stripped him of his political persona. This is whyDurbar Square – from the perspective of cadreship that is – became his coffin and nothis throne. Unprepared, he had passed through the republican altar on his way to theroyal compound so that, when he entered the latter, he had been reduced to a naked andbloated person, desacralized and rejected by those who had temporarily allowed him torule.It was the symbolic force of janata, I would argue, which turned the presidentialceremony into a political sacrifice. He was not prepared to meet divinity before enteringDurbar Square, and he was most certainly not prepared to meet it in the form of janata,very angry at the betrayal he was about to commit. That the punishment came before thecrime only confirms the omnipotent power of janata; their authority is total, their gazeis relentless. By carrying them in their pockets, the cadres wielded a terrifying weaponand one which they had to be properly prepared to use. It was the cadres' sacredness –their extensive sacrifices in the camp – that turned the black cloth into such a potentweapon because it established an affinity between cadres and the figure of janata. Thisis in line with Hubert & Mauss' prescription of sacrifice, that it describes a process ofincreased sacralization and, in their analysis, the sacrifier is also often physically separatedfrom society and hence profanity in order to gain the sacredness necessary to meetthe divine substance. All those years, they have prepared themselves to represent janata,to carry it hidden in their pockets or openly in strategic commands. And as long as theycontinuously sacrifice themselves, this is the force given to them by its authority.The tactical maneuver becomes more effective – more powerful in a way – becausethe spirit is compressed and hidden, similar to the way the repression of the peoplecompacts their energy and prefigures a tremendous outburst. Bringing janata into thepublic arena through such sudden eruption plays on a symbolism of a compacted energysource that is released all at once. We do not have to look far to find a parallel. Due tothe history of the CPN-M, it is not wholly improbable to think of the use of janata hereas a process that is reminiscent of explosions – a very common „tactic‟ during the People‟sWar. Pradeep once entertained cadres by explaining how he made bombs out of243


C H A P T E R 7pressure cookers. It was difficult work and they would hide in the jungle for over aweek just making pressure cooker bombs even though they had nothing to eat. He wasnow so proficient in bomb making, he claimed, that he could make bombs with his barehands. In a way, the black flags are also small bombs, representing janata‟s wrath. It isa condensed spirituality that, when abruptly released, is terrifying and, as with bombs,cadres have to learn to construct them, carry them to their site of detonation and usethem properly. This is what it means to be a revolutionary during a political phase: tolive in the jungle (camp), learn how to make bombs with your bare hands (labor and renunciation),travel to battle (disciplined entry to the outside) and discharge the raw energythat one has so meticulously constructed on the head of the enemy.CONCLUSIONThe figure of janata belongs to outside the camp. This is where it can be called forthand used to invade the city, and to make itself heard as a powerful voice in political battles.By bringing janata into action in this way, the cadres‟ relevance as mediums in thisprocess becomes very clear and actualizes the sacrificial component of their mobilization;they have become the instruments of janata‟s authority, representing its will. Theiractivism – when properly conducted – therefore assumes the character of the sacrifice,with the public as witnesses and themselves as sacrifier between the public and the divinitythat janata represents.The chapter has traced the changes to revolutionary sacrifice which follow fromengaging in public party work as both a contrast to and a continuation of camp life, andits more introvert sacrifices. From this perspective, we can see how camp sacrificesfunctioned as preparation, connecting the months and years cadres spent in their sectionswith politically meaningful activist procedures. In their activist work, the cadres‟impact on the unfolding of political events and hence on the revolutionary progressionchanged significantly, from being one that was almost entirely outside its flow to becomingone of its most vivid expressions. Through participation in public work, cadresmomentarily obtained the quality of the avant-garde beyond its mere moral overtonesthat leaders had proscribed for them; here they could experience being part of an importantunfolding of political potentiality, which they were spearheading through theirdiscipline, focus and special political „experience‟, sacrality.It is quite unsurprising, then, that there was a close relationship between cadres‟participation in activist happenings and their loyalty to revolutionary subjectivity. Goingthrough the quite arduous processes of sacrificial preparation removed from ordinarysocial life was not going to make a whole lot of sense if it did not lead to political activ-244


A C T I V I S M B E T W E E N T H E P U B L I C A N D ‘ T H E P E O P L E ’ism and remained instead a private, and hence non-political, sacrifice. From this perspective,what public sacrifices accomplished was to reinvigorate the camp sacrifices;cadres‟ successes in public events made the preparation worthwhile and, indeed, meaningful.To further explore this feedback mechanism from public to private (camp) sacrifices,I turn now to the last chapter, which brings in the final and most conspicuous elementof revolutionary sacrifice, namely violence against „corrupt‟ youth.245


8 SECURITIZING THE PUBLICWhen not engaged in forms of protest, such as the julus and bandhs discussed in theprevious chapter, cadres‟ activism were either encapsulated in the trope of volunteering,swayamsebak, where the purpose was to directly assist the public, or the trope of security,suraksha, that had as its overall goal to protect other party members or the publicagainst „enemies‟. This chapter explores cadres‟ „security work‟ with particular focus onthe form of security where the goal was to defend the public. The question I seek to addressin this chapter is why security has taken such a central role in YCL‟s public manifestations.Unlike volunteering which was seen as a way of combining „political‟ workwith „social‟ work according to my interlocutors, security work drew on a different setof ideas that built on the figure of the enemy and its opposition to both the public andthe party. What was so „political‟ about „doing security‟ that it legitimized becoming aconsiderable focus for YCL‟s activism? In these efforts at securitizing the public, I shallargue, what happens is that the sacrificial victim which has so far primarily been cadresthemselves, becomes externalized and pushed on to an exterior, tangible enemy. It isthrough security work, in particular, that cadres transform the internalization of thecamp sacrifice into an aggressive sacrifice. This describes not only the climax of thesacrifice but at the same time the high-point of cadres‟ public assertiveness therebyconnecting the processes of sacrifice with the political expressions of YCL activism.The most potent aspect of revolutionary sacrifice occurs around the figure of thevictim. In the history of the CPN-M, this has been acknowledged through the traditionand institutionalization of martyrdom, whereby death has been signified as an elementof the political struggle. Martyrs are victims of the revolution, people who have giventheir lives so that others may benefit from their accomplishments and, in this sense,martyrdom is regenerative of the socio-political order, bringing about the hopeful prospectof a New Nepal, as well as the urge for new recruits to follow the blessed exampleof martyrdom; as Marie Lecomte-Tilouine aptly writes, „Kill one, he becomes a hundred‟(Lecomte-Tilouine 2006). Martyrdom is an exchange of the most radical kind, in


S E C U R I T I Z I N G T H E P U B L I Cwhich a life is offered in return for the community and its ideals, and the power of theMaoist‟s political project can be gauged by its ability to generate martyrs. During thePeople‟s War, martyrdom was the primary category of sacrificial victim within theCPN-M; one gave one‟s life to the revolution, and this was the honorific script of successfulcadreship. But what has happened to the victim with the cessation of violentconfrontation and the absence of death as a regenerative sacrifice?In this chapter, I conclude on the question of revolutionary sacrifice in the CPN-M‟s political transition by looking at the role of the victim. The victim, as Hubert &Mauss remind us (1964), is that figure which undergoes the most extreme change duringthe sacrificial rite, in some cases even perishing, and it is the release of sacred energyfacilitated by the victim‟s transformation that constitutes the ritual‟s source of energy.Without victim, there is no sacrifice. While the victims in the camp were the cadresthemselves, or part thereof through their labor, time and immorality, outside the campsacrifice changed character and was redirected at an external victim. In order to understandhow this affects revolutionary sacrifice, I shall employ Maurice Bloch‟s analysisof initiation (1991) to argue that the prototypical external victim represents the samekind of core substance that define cadres‟ self-sacrifice, namely „youth‟. It is their ownyouth that cadres sacrifice when moving into the camp, and it is others‟ youth that issacrificed through activism. This figure of youth at the heart of sacrifice ties togetherthe thesis and defines the symbolic operations of post-war cadreship, that is, the reproductivedynamic of youth in politics.I start with a description of security work, then turn to a discussion of securitization,followed by the figures of corrupt youth as that which security work targets, andlastly analyze the symmetrical relationship between cadres and their victims, which accountsfor its sacrificial potentiality. The chapter is thus not concerned with mapping thediverse forms of assertive activism that YCL cadres engage in but to understand onespecific aspect of their public engagement and to analytically draw connections betweencadres‟ non-public camp preparations and the expressions that a large subset of publiccampaigns take.„DOING SECURITY‟The game started at 2:30 pm. By that time, the stadium was full with people.15 minutes after the game started, groups and groups of people startedcrossing the North East wall ... One policeman started beating them with hisstick and he was followed by another police man. But, it was out of controlsince the group was so big. Eventually, YCL cadres (not our friends) tookthe police sticks and started beating the mass. It was controlled for a while.247


C H A P T E R 8But later, they [lost] control of the mass. In the end, when the game endedwith Nepal‟s victory, spectators crossed the fence of the stadium and ran tothe players. The policemen also ran after them and beat some of them. Butthere was a lot of excitement and sensation so that nobody could control themasses. Our friends were motionless at that time as if it was clear that controllingthe mass did not fall under their duty.This quote is from my research assistant‟s observations during the final match of thePrime Minster (PM) Cup during the month of March, in which the Nayabasti cadres hadbeen assigned to a section that remained calm and they were therefore „motionless‟. Insuch situations, cadres illustrated that they were not merely volunteering to assist in thesmooth operation of an event, but had a much more fundamental role to play. They hadspecific duties and this did not involve preventing spectators from breaching the linesseparating players from onlookers. Cadres talked of such duties as suraksha (security)and it described how they were assigned to ensure calm and order in their area of operation.When talking of the PM Cup, several alternated between using swayamsebak (volunteering)and suraksha to indicate that whereas they provided a voluntary service tothe sports council for which they were only reimbursed their bus tickets, what they wereactually doing at the stadium (in most cases) was guarding against unsanctioned behaviorin their place of assignment. This was „doing security‟ (suraksha garnu), ensuringthat public order was maintained by preventing individuals from breaching it.Suraksha constituted something of an archetypal task of the YCL‟s work in public.It was the goal of winning the CA elections that had been the YCL‟s major assignmentduring its first years and the YCL was responsible for protecting the polling booths intheir areas of operation, particularly to ensure that rival party cadres did not cheat and„capture the booth‟. 1 YCL‟s central role in winning the CA elections was often congratulatedduring my fieldwork when party leaders addressed their youth wing. Among thecadres, it was similarly significant, and most of the camp‟s members – and around halfof the section cadres – had been part of this important operation. Like the Jana AndolanII in 2006, it became a party event that one could be proud of having taken part in.During my fieldwork, the Free Student Union (FSU) elections provided a similarimportant frame for the cadres to „do security‟. 2 The YCL was mobilized by the Maoist1 A magnificent account of how such local politics is carried out in Nepal is provided by ManjushreeThapa in her award-winning novel „The Tutor of History‟ (Thapa 2001).2 FSU elections in Nepal are a national affair, as also mentioned in Chapter 4. This has been documentedby Amanda Snellinger in her detailed work with the Nepali student unions, and she argues that becausethey are career links to national party politics for its members, its elections can be seen as exercises inparliamentary democracy in which cadres „train‟ to become politicians (Snellinger 2007). Student Unionsalso carry a historical legacy as legal fronts for the political parties and their internal battles have thereforealways been seen to reflect the national battle between the three major parties (NC, UML, CPN-M).For this and other reasons, the FSU elections are followed closely by the national media, they mobilize248


S E C U R I T I Z I N G T H E P U B L I CStudent Union, ANNISU-R, to assist with security during these events. Nayabasti wasassigned to two central campuses downtown, one in which the political battle betweenthe parties was quite fierce, and also the one that they were most often called out towork for. Bajra was traditionally a stronghold of the arch-rival Nepal Student Union(the student wing of the Nepali Congress party) and, in effect, became a back-up forcefor the ANNISU-R leadership. In the weeks preceding the elections scheduled forMarch 19, cadres participated in two large events although camp leaders often went toBajra to meet and discuss with their ANNISU-R colleagues, and cadres were on standbyto react if ANNISU-R cadres were attacked at the college.On the first occasion, cadres participated in a CPN-M cultural program – a dramatizedperformance of song and dance recounting scenes from the People‟s War and includingpolitical speeches by campus ANNISU-R leaders. The cadres were sittingamong the spectators, a few taking notes of the speeches, while some of the leaders patrolledthe campus area. The second time, they were assigned a more specific role tohandle security for Baburam Bhattarai, a senior Maoist leader, who was giving a speechat the campus, and the cadres were divided into two sections guarding the two entrancesto the stage. I talked to one of the Section Commanders about the work immediately afterBhattarai had left. Compact and strong, Prabir was only 19 but he had fought duringthe People‟s War and belonged to the category of seniors who very soon after movedout of the camp. He clarified:Since the CA elections it has been easy to provide security. Before the CAwe used to travel in the dark of night undercover. Today, we were also a littleextra alert because of the security incident yesterday [where one of theANNISU-R members had been attacked by rival groups at the campus] and,unlike the previous program, which was also education, this time we werehere purely for security.Security of this kind was mainly for the protection of leaders. Whereas the firstprogram also involved „education‟ – listening to speeches by their leaders and playingout the crucial function of leaders as guides (and cadres as apprentices) as discussed inChapter 3 – they were effectively in place to make sure that the program could be carriedout without interruption. So while the junior cadres were sitting among the spectatorsand watching the performance, several Nayabasti leaders were circling the campusarea and checking people out who were standing further away from the show to forestalla potential attack on the performers.the mother parties‟ support and become central political spectacles that involve several weeks of politicalevents and recurring clashes between the opposing parties.249


C H A P T E R 8In the second instance, however, cadres acted more clearly as security guards. 3 Thisrole was best served, I was to see, by not wearing their uniforms and hence being invisibleto the public eye. Tara explained this to me after they had been called to another „securityincident‟ at the national university in Kirtipur a few weeks after the election(votes were still being counted and fought over at Kirtipur many weeks after electionday). I had asked how they could provide security if they were unrecognizable and Taraanswered:We have to be invisible if we have to react, there would otherwise be a lot ofpublicity. We stand in the crowd to provide security for our friends andleaders so that they are not attacked ... If we are not in our dress there isless risk of being noticed. People will simply say that there was an attackbetween students. But even though other students do not recognize us we areproviding protection. If there is fighting we try to convince them to stop andif they don't we'll react.Prabir also stressed the need for invisibility in the FSU elections. It was particularly accomplishedby not wearing their uniform. „People don‟t know we are here,‟ he said,„and we don‟t want them to know.‟On election day, March 19, cadres‟ security role was broader than merely protectingleaders. They had already arrived by 3 am just to make sure they were the first thereand could thus prevent any form of early sabotage. At 6 am, voters started lining up outsidethe campus. The cadres had various roles on that day. During the morning, somehad taken part in dancing and cheering for the ANNISU-R in small snake-like processionsin front of the campus but, since then, they had been entirely focused on their securitywork. They had stood scattered in small groups along the wall on the other side ofthe street from the college entrance with the different leaders above section structuregoing back and forth passing messages. A group of seven cadres (the most junior ones)had been assigned to a different college but, by noon, they had come and joined the rest.Throughout the day, they just stood and waited; with the street completely packed withpeople, they were inconspicuous, invisible in fact. Although there was lot of commotionand spontaneous sloganeering, no fights erupted at this college and, consequently, thecadres stayed on their guard without being „activated‟. 43 Several CPN-M leaders have equipped themselves with security guards from the PLA; Prachanda, forinstance, was being guarded by more than two handfuls of PLA soldiers until their recent return to thecantonments at the start of the reintegration programs (News from June 6, 2011, www.nepalnews.com).Bhattarai had not brought along his own security team on that day and that was why the YCL cadres weregiven the task of guarding him during the program.4 Less than 500 meters away, people were clashing with riot police, hurling stones, and several tear gasbombs were thrown by the police. But this incident was related to another college and did not interferewith the voting at Bajra.250


S E C U R I T I Z I N G T H E P U B L I C„Doing security‟ conformed to YCL‟s fundamental image as guardians of publicorder. A recurrent theme within the organization was its ability to combat crime, andduring the first years of its operations – before the CPN-M won the CA election – YCLconducted several high-profile anti-crime campaigns. During my fieldwork, YCL membersspoke with pride of how they were more efficient than the police in catching criminalsand that locals would therefore often call on the YCL if there was a security incident.With its tight command-structure and ready availability of cadres in the camps, afew phone calls would be enough to quickly mobilize a section unit. In this role, theYCL considered itself to be an intermediary between the public and the police since itpossessed the discipline and man-power necessary for instituting order and would thenhand over its victims to the authorities.The expressions of security as a way of instituting public order were well reflectedin the two cases presented above. At the football stadium, for instance, their principaltask was not to prevent fighting but to keep order within the bounds of their authority,and since there had not been any commotion in the sections that the Nayabasti cadresguarded, there had been no reason to react. A similar logic applied to the FSU elections.Here, maintaining order was about the smooth running of the elections, and cadres weredeliberately posted just across from the entrance to the college which was the scenewhere they anticipated disruption. In a narrow door into the college, two security guardswere checking people‟s credentials before letting them in to vote, and cadres feared thatthey could easily be overpowered by a group of cheaters. It was this gate and this admissionprocedure that they were carefully watching to prevent irregularities. As Kamalexplained to me when I queried him about his perception of security work many monthslater:As far as I know security means to control any disruption in programs.Sometimes we do that. When decisions come from the upper bodies, our enemiesmight try to oppose this, and to control it, we do security.Security thus became a way of instituting order and the kind of participation thisrequired was precisely the withdrawn discipline cadres had trained in the camp andwhich they also made use of in other cases of activism: in their withdrawn presence duringthe chakkajam; their hidden waiting in the black flag procession; and their uninterruptedguarding of the election procedures that meant they could not leave their post forthe entire day. Cadres‟ role here was reminiscent of soldiering, or patrolling, wherebythey waited in a disciplined manner until they were „activated‟ These all testified to adistinct way of bringing order through alertness, discipline and, if necessary, swift reaction.251


C H A P T E R 8Suraksha as a type of engagement with the outside is interesting because it bringsjanata in to perform quite a different role than when cadres are disrupting city flows orpolitical authority. In those cases, as I showed in Chapter 7, it is janata‟s wrath or suppressionwhich returns by compulsion, and cadres are merely the loyal mediums for thisenergy. Security work also manifests janata‟s will but, this time, it is a much more„neutral‟ power. Consider how Bijay formulates their security work during a boxing andwushu 5 tournament. I had asked him if they were not afraid – after all, these were martialarts experts - and Bijay had particularly stressed the risk that the loser might attackhis competitor after the game:No [we were not afraid]. We have a mandate from the people [janata]. Weare volunteering for the people, so it is not us who are scared, it is they whoare scared of YCL and they won't dare do anything to us.Janata is protective of the cadres because they have „volunteered‟ for them, or, inmy analysis, sacrificed themselves when becoming activists and, in this process, gaineda direct relationship with janata as those whom they are representing. Bijay‟s use of„volunteering‟ here is instructive, for although it is reminiscent of the volunteering theydo for the public in order to entice them, volunteering here performs a special kind ofrepresentation that protects cadres from harm. It is a force that injects them with sacralityand against which the profanity of the outside poses no danger. The same way cadrescan wield the force of janata because they have cleansed themselves of the most pollutingprofanity, cadres stand between the public and the janata, representing the latter‟simmanent will while enjoying its protection. The mandate cadres expressed when disruptingsocial order through chakkajam, julus and bandh was, in security work, used forprecisely the opposite purpose – to create or restore order. While most of the surakshacases I have described so far primarily concern preventing an undesirable calamity fromoccurring, cadres‟ janata mandate becomes particularly strong when used to impose aspecific vision of the social on society; that is, to impose a moral order.PROTECTING THE PUBLICThe links between the YCL and public order replayed the revolutionary‟s role as an intermediarybetween the public as a dormant expression of jana-sakti („people power‟)and the idiom of janata as the site of democratic authority (see Chapter 7). From thisperspective, YCL as the avant-garde of the Maoist revolution had a special role to playin protecting the public against anti-revolutionary „impurities‟. During the Black Flag5 A Chinese full-contact martial arts discipline.252


S E C U R I T I Z I N G T H E P U B L I Cevent that I recounted in the previous chapter, for example, Pradeep and Nischal hadbeen chatting with a blind beggar on the curb while waiting for the event to unfold. Thereason for this, I was told, was to „test‟ whether he was cheating about his handicap andwhen he got up and walked away, he bumped into several of the cadres as if he couldnot see them – which would, of course, be the perspective from blindness. But the cadreswere not impressed and teased him with comments like :‟you‟re exaggerating‟. Fora movement which claims legitimacy because it represents the true voice of janata, thepollution of this substance must be controlled. Pradeep and Nischal were, in this sense,checking on the beggars true identity as a janata, on his authenticity as „downtrodden‟and „dispossessed.‟Public disturbances that the YCL is seeking to control through „doing security‟seems to be an extension of this principle whereby the public risks being „polluted‟ by anon-revolutionary substance and it was significant that YCL was in other ways giventhe tasks of establishing order: cadres would, for instance, be charged with creating newyouth organizations to prevent restless teenagers in local villages from becoming aproblem, clearly a pre-emptive move; and Pradeep had as one of his public roles to mediatein local neighborhood disputes that were irrelevant for regular law enforcementbut not for Maoist ideas of social order. Reminiscent of examples of vigilantism (Buur& Jensen 2004; Sundar 2010), security work in the YCL expressed the moral visions ofthe Maoist movement and were therefore not simply about upholding the law but aboutimplementing a particular perspective on order – a social and moral one – on the public.Following from these concerns with keeping the public clean of anti-revolutionarysubstances, YCL‟s security work had as one of its primary goal to control „vandalism‟.Ravi, who had been the In-Charge of Nayabasti before Pradeep, offered his perspectiveon how he saw the relationship between CPN-M‟s political program and vandalism. Hehad been a member already during the armed phase and therefore had a longer perspectiveon the revolutionary successes than the younger cadres. Despite the party‟s victoryin the elections and the promises of the new consensus phase, he was far from happy.He was content with the „democratic process‟, which meant that people were no longerkilled, but he felt that all the things they had fought for – „fundamental rights for people‟– had not been fulfilled. This is because, as he explained: „vandals are not letting uswork.‟For the YCL, vandalism represented a disruptive social force, one that took pleasurein destruction. The word most often used to refer to this figure was gunda, meaningrascal, goon or gangster. When speaking to cadres about the FSU elections, this was theterm used to describe the real battle that the elections represented. During a group interviewwith five of the cadres, gunda was constantly referred to as the backdrop both to253


C H A P T E R 8the election and to those they were fighting – or providing security against. Here is acondensed transcript of the more than one-hour long interview in which gunda wasused:Bijay: I think if the revolutionary [ANNISU-R] wins, vandalism will not bethere, and it shouldn't.Shyam: This election is basically to distinguish vandals from the real communists.Bibek: Others vandalise and kill people but in contrast we give good thingsto the people.Shyam: I think the distinction between the two [elections] is that in the CAelections people can choose which party should lead the country but in thestudent elections, the choice is between vandals and ANNISU-R… Thosewho are rich and who don't like change they vote for vandals and smugglers.Nihar: In the colleges, it is the supporters of the NSU [Nepal Student Union]that are vandals.Bijay: Students search for good organizations in the campuses and it [studentunions] provides security by controlling vandalism so security is aconcern for them.Gunda is used here to refer both to the rival political organization and to its supporters,and these ways of using gunda turns it into a metaphor for destruction that canbe seen to be linked to class positions: „those that are rich‟ and the „supporters of theNSU‟ which is the student union of the conservative Nepali Congress party and hasbeen CPN-M‟s major political enemy since the People‟s War. Vandalism is thereforenot only an irruptive force but also an immanent one; it is a force that resides in societyand threatens to burst out if not kept at bay and controlled. Damini explained, for instance,that she was afraid of saying that she was a YCL cadre when going on her ownto her village because „I might run into vandals‟. It was a lurking danger, not unlike theway Maoist cadres were themselves feared during the People‟s War as non-human beingsthat came out of the jungle (Pettigrew 2008).Vandalism could be kept down through security, as Bijay makes clear in the lastcomment above. Security targets vandalism and controls it. Here vandalism is joined byanother central figure that is in need of control, namely tyape. Tyape are usually recognizedas cocky individuals, people who are „smart‟ and who do not want to recognize254


S E C U R I T I Z I N G T H E P U B L I Cthe cadres‟ authority. 6 During a chakkajam where cadres had to enforce their will moreforcefully, Kamal recounted how tyape started opposing them and hitting the cadres thatwere telling them to get off their bikes. Tara similarly explained how one tyape hadbeaten Keshar during a bandh and, when they finally found the culprit, they realized hehad a bad reputation for stealing in his community and they threatened him by sayingthat they would come after him if he ever stole again or obstructed their programs inthat way.What emerges from this discussion is how cadres‟ role as guardians of the publicorder gave rise to quite distinct figures of the „enemy within‟. In this regard, YCL‟s securitywork reminisces of processes of securitization which denotes not the actual act ofinstituting order but the discursive one of marking something as an object of a securityconcern (Buzan et. al 1997). Securitization rests on a superior agents‟ ability to structurea field through discursive procedures in order to physically transform it and this wasalso cadres‟ security concern; to rid the public of gunda and tyape. As a strategy of order,securitization therefore establishes not only the figure of the enemy but at the sametime the idea of the desirable community, of that which must be protected, and it is asimilar idealization which pertains to YCL‟s security work with the public on the oneside and vandals on the other.The public, as I explained in the previous chapter, act as witnesses to cadres‟ sacrificein two senses: they must protect cadres from profanity, and we can now see that thestrongest expression of this anti-sacredness are the vandals with their immoral behavior.But the public also possess the dormant seed of jana-sakti, which is what allows them toactively support cadres, since cadres are, from a political point of view, a perfection ofthe public and must occupy themselves with daily affairs and the resulting 'openness' of'word and deed' that this necessarily leads to. The public are, in other words, unfocusedand not in a revolutionary mode. This does not mean that they are corrupt, however, justdormant, and tyape and gunda threaten this purity within the public. The threat of corruptionthat vandals pose can thus be seen as the anti-thesis to the revolutionary alliancebetween cadres, the public and janata: Janata is all revolution, its very principle; cadresconstitute their most direct representative; and the public are like faded revolutionaries,still loyal to the principle but far from capable of utilizing its force, of wielding its spiritlike cadres do. Corruption is the anti-revolutionary principle 7 that threatens this complex6 It is also the term regularly used for Euro-American hippies, following their strong presence in Kathmanduduring the 1970‟s and 80‟s. Tyape is therefore often associated with taking drugs, such as marijuana,which has been popular with Western tourists in Nepal.7 A strong theme in revolutionary movements has historically been to guard themselves against corruptionof the revolutionary process, and in CPN-M the 'internal struggle' also refers to such a continual cleaningof revolutionary spirit (see Chapter 6). See also Arendt‟s interesting discussion of the fight against „hy-255


C H A P T E R 8relationship between public, cadres and janata and patrolling the public for anti-socialelements is therefore to ascertain that its core body is not corrupted, that it can retain itsrevolutionary innocence.YCL‟s securitization of the public can thus be seen as a strategy for perpetuatingrevolutionary politics through an activism that played on recognized tropes of policing -controlling criminality and so on. But the „vandals‟ that YCL turned into enemies werenot just randomly chosen victims of a securitizing strategy but played on the corruptiblenature of youth, thereby bringing them on level with cadres‟ whose own activism wasalso an expression of their identity as youth.YOUTH VICTIMSCadres‟ conceptualization of public enemies were, as I explained, vandals, and moreprecisely gunda and tyape. They were both disruptive forces but they seemed to havedistinct characteristics, pointing to the complex configuration of this enemy category.There was specifically one type of work referred to as „CC Operations‟ which encapsulatedthis relationship between YCL cadres and the corruption of the public, and whichis helpful for throwing light on how cadres‟ enemies were conceptualized. In CC Operations,the aim was plainly to clean the neighborhood of these types of person. I was toldthat a list would be kept of „bad‟ people that the cadres would be specifically mobilizedto search for. Suraj explained:In CC Operations, disruptive guys – the tyape type you know – will besnatched and beaten. If we find any evidence against him then we will beathim but otherwise we just counsel him. This operation is just that: hit thegundas and tyapes.In Suraj‟s view, it was necessary to perform this operation on a regular basis because itkept the neighborhood „clean‟. He had never participated in a CC Operation, since mostof the criminals had been weeded out from their area, but he felt that it was time to doso again because new criminal elements were forming in the Bouddha area, particularlygunda – gunda who, in contrast to tyape, organize into gangs and spread their pollutionthrough violence. Himal also saw the importance of preparing for society‟s progressionby removing „people who create problems‟. In explaining to me what CC Operationscovered, he said:pocrisy‟ as a signifying, and in her opinion lamentable, trait of revolutions since Robespierre‟s terreur(Arendt 2006).256


S E C U R I T I Z I N G T H E P U B L I CBoth in villages and the city you find these kind of people who really createproblems for others and it is very important to change their behavior andwhat we do is, in the beginning, is to counsel them (samjauchau) but then ifthey still haven't changed their behavior we bring them to the camp and wepunish them. 8 It is for the progression of society as well as to change theirbehavior.More than simply examples of specific enemies that YCL security work targeted,tyape and gunda, I would suggest, were master-signifiers for immoral personhood andwere seen to be linked to idleness, smoking, drinking, flirting, etc. They pointed to atype of being which was polluted and needed to be cleaned and it was therefore primarilyan 'internal' corruption. Tyape were possibly a slightly different kind of corruption ofthe public than gunda; they were even more insidious than gunda, and my interpreterusually translated it as „drug addict‟ to show how it referred to an utterly corrupt morality.Tyape was therefore a type of being that could ideally be corrected, as had been thecase with the middle-class YCL leader Hari who had also been a „drug addict‟ beforejoining the YCL (Chapter 2), and this was also reflected in Bibek‟s answer to my questionabout what the point of targeting tyape was: „To make a New Nepal we have tomake individuals very good,‟ he explained. „Replacing the bad habits of people and creatinggood ones, we will definitely make a new Nepal.‟This points to how the YCL‟s enemies were not simply a social evil that needed tobe eradicated but rather corrupted individuals that could be reformed through „counseling‟.It is instructive here that cadres rarely spoke of violence in direct terms but ratherthrough this idea of counseling to highlight that their first reaction was to give „vandals‟advice and only if they continued to misbehave would they physically assault, or „punish‟them. To attack vandals could therefore be experienced by cadres as an ambiguousprocess because it was recognized that, ultimately, vandals were also just persons. Thiscomplex of feelings was well expressed by Kamal when we spoke about the incidents atthe Pashupatinath temple where the YCL had been engaged in fights on several occasions(see Chapter 3). Kamal first recounted how they had been guarding a perimeterinside the temple that they had set up when some journalists breached it, and how thecadres had been persuading the journalists to retreat: „Again we tried to counsel them‟,Kamal said, „but they did not listen to us and we beat them‟. Immediately upon sayingthat, Kamal then reflected upon the incident and admitted that, personally, he would rathersee that they were all united instead of fighting each other:8 It is interesting that Himal refers to punishing. It links CC Operations with other more informal ways oftargeting thieves and other small-time criminals that they encounter in a neighborhood. I was told of afew occasions, apparently a long time ago, where they had caught thieves and brought them to the campto punish them.257


C H A P T E R 8Even tyapes and gunda are Nepalis and personally I feel we should createan environment where all these disagreements can be managed rather thancreating tensions amongst each other.This way, cadres re-signified security work and the securitization of the public asan effort at correcting „bad habits‟ so as to create „good ones‟, highlighting the sharedidentity between vandals and Nepalis in general. The parallels to cadres‟ own process ofpolitical maturation through communist pietism are striking; they also needed to correcttheir behavior by renouncing the „anti-social‟ aspects of their selves. I think this pointsto a symmetry between cadres and vandals: they both contained an immoral seed withinthem and if not controlled, it could lead to the kind of selfish and destructive behaviorthat vandalism exemplified.What united cadres and vandals, I want to suggest, was not merely their Nepalinessbut more fundamentally their identity as „youth‟. Cadres spoke in the exact same termsabout gunda and tyape as they spoke about „youth‟ outside the camp – their own as wellas others‟: irresponsible, selfish, anti-social, idle. These were exactly the aspects of beinga youth in the city that cadres had sought to escape when moving into the camp andthe part of themselves that they needed to reform. Just like cadres themselves, gundaand tyape therefore represented the category of „youth‟ but as socially disconnected actorswho had succumbed to the immoralities of selfishness in an extreme form. In theform of tyape and gunda, something had therefore happened which changed the struggleof youth from a private phenomenon to a public one. As vandals and thieves, the youththat roamed the outside world in this clothing were no longer simply sinners incapableof revolutionary sacrifice but harmful substances in society‟s midst. And it was this particularcorruption of youth – as the most negative expression of its identity – that turnedvandals into victims, deserving of „punishment‟.SYMMETRIES OF SACRIFICETo explore how we can theorize this aspect of security work as revolving around anidentity of youth that both cadres and vandals share, I turn to Maurice Bloch‟s analysisof „rebounding violence‟ (1991). Bloch uses initiation rites to illustrate the original violencewhich occurs when youth are separated from society, an analysis that nicely capturesYCL cadres‟ own process of sacrifice. At this stage, the initiates must kill thatwhich ties them to their youthhood, which is equivalent to that which constitutes humanvitality. From Bloch's own work on Madagascar, this vitality is represented by pigs, forinstance, whereas for the Dinka it is cows that are equated with the life-giving substance.Only after getting rid of that part of themselves that ties them to society are they258


S E C U R I T I Z I N G T H E P U B L I Cready to connect with the life-transcending principle that differentiates them from animals,typically in the form of ancestral spirits. The final stage of the initiation requirestheir reincorporation and thus they must return from the spirit-world that they have livedin during the liminal phase and become recognizable to humans. This is done by regainingthe vitality that they abandoned during their separation and can, for instance, involvethe ritual consumption of pig meat. The important point Bloch is making here isthat what was originally a part of oneself and lost during separation can only be regainedfrom an external source, since it no longer exists in one's own body. The vitalitythat one lost now has to be conquered, and this is the process of rebounding violence.The violence that was unleashed on the self to rid it of vitality needs an external sourceof vitality for the initiates to become whole persons again, albeit now as adults - partvitality and part spirits. As such, Bloch‟s theory explains, as the title of his book shows,the shift in the initiated from „prey into hunter‟.When transferred to cadres, this model helps explain the entire process I have describedfrom the moment they decided to enter the camp. Cadres must also enact aforceful separation that sets them apart from civilian life. This is both a spatial, moraland social separation and can be regarded as the beginning of a process of 'killing' a partof themselves that tied them to society – the vanity, desires and monetary fixation ofyouth, in short, selfishness. Communist pietism is an effort to accomplish this internalviolence: killing the selfishness in the self. Cadre life is also reminiscent of a liminalphase in which they are initiated into the life-transcending principle that connects themwith a cultural past and future and makes their life meaningful beyond their own shortlives. But, for cadres, this transcendent spirit is not the permanent teachings of the adultworld and their ancestral spirits but a different world: it is the greatness of the revolutionarysoldier that becomes their spiritual essence. Cadres, like initiated youth, are stillonly half beings in the camp, however. It is a liminal space because the spiritual elementis not as strong as it is in society. This is the paradox of revolutionary initiation. It mustbreak with society but cannot be completed outside it because sacredness resides in themidst of society, in the true politics of the people as shown in the previous chapter. Cadresmust therefore return to society to complete their transformation to revolutionarybeing.This is where, I want to argue, the figure of gunda and tyape, as examples of corruptedyouth, become relevant for cadres‟ sacrifice. As documented in the first threechapters, youth have come to represent the primary force in the transformation of adeeply divided country into a New Nepal; youth are being mobilized to take part in thereconstruction of the country via politics, production and education, and activism is justone form this heightened awareness of youth's importance takes. To be 'youth' is then to259


C H A P T E R 8be powerful and this can be understood in two ways. One's period of youth, as cadreswould say, is a time of strength and vitality, in which they are naturally strong. Fromsociety's perspective, however, youth are also seen to represent it‟s vitality – the newgeneration for a new era (Shakya 2009; de Schepper & Poudel 2010). It is this power ofyouth, I suspect, that turns vandals into ideals victims because, just like cadres, theypossess the substance of youth and are therefore full of potentiality but, as a youth thathas become corrupted by being turned against society, it is in need of correction throughpunishment. Let me try to flesh out the implication of this perspective on vandals asyouth victims from the perspective of sacrifice.What does it mean to be a victim here? I think it points to three things that followfrom the fact that it is entirely in relation to the sacrifice that they are victims. The mostobvious implication of being a victim is that it is the one that must be sacrificed. It is thebeing that undergoes the most radical change during the ritual, in the most extreme casestraversing the line separating life from death. 9 This takes us to the second and veryinteresting aspect of the victim that I want to highlight: the close affinity between cadresand corrupt youth. As explained in Chapter 6, renouncing immoral behavior in the campwas a way for pious personhood to ascertain dominance over the immanent anti-socialelements of youth that threatened to burst out through entertainment. In the camp,communist pietism was expressed through renunciations and a program of reform thatwere helpful in permanently instituting the new and wholly moral being that cadreswere trying to become. Against this strengthened moral being stands not simply the outsideyouth with their lack of discipline and irregular „openness‟ that prevents them fromfocusing but the physical presence of gunda and tyape. They are the exact inversion ofcadres with the same hardened personality and their deliberateness. They are just as anti-revolutionaryas the cadres are revolutionary and contain all the bad elements ofyouth that cadres have fought to exorcize. This makes them formally identical: cadreson the one side and gunda/tyape on the other.This brings me to the third aspect of vandals as victims, namely that, by virtue oftheir „corruption‟ (anti-sociality), they are already sacred objects. This is a point whichhas been argued throughout the literature on sacrifice but, in particular, by Rene Girard9 This is NOT the case in the sacrifices I am describing here. Gunda and tyape are symbolic victims andthe fatalities that have been connected with the YCL over the years cannot be directly equated with thesacrificial structure I am analyzing. This is principally due to the fact that the securitization strategy connectedwith the purification of the public, as shown, revolves around correction of „bad behavior‟ and„punishment‟ rather than extermination, which is an altogether different kind of erasure of the enemy figure.Just as with cadres‟ own sacrifice, the enemy category I have sketched is partial to the entire person;it is an insidious form of corruption and it therefore suffices to focus on this kernel of evil rather than onthe persons per se. To accomplish this cleansing of the public, force might be needed bu killing is unnecessary.260


S E C U R I T I Z I N G T H E P U B L I C(Girard 1977). Beings that are radically opposed to society – criminals, certain animals,demons – already contain sacredness. The identity between cadres and their mirror imagetherefore concerns not only the fact that they represent opposing forms of youth –one clean, one sinful – but also that they are both removed from the profane by virtue oftheir extremity. This should be understood in the context of Nepali Maoism where thepolitical itself, as I have shown, is seen as imbued with a sacred quality linking the authorityof „the people‟ with the power of the movement to represent it. Politics andyouth are both sacred fields for the CPN-M: politics is their ritual specialization and anyoneelse entering this field must confront the „divine gaze‟ of janata, a „secret‟ theMaoist party guards and a power they wield; youth, on the other hand, express potentialityand strength, the sacred instruments. Politics is the field whereas youth are its idealizedform because they shall bring forth the New Nepal. When combined with the sacredsubstance of youth or politics, corruption – itself representing the most deplorableanti-revolutionary principle – becomes dangerous and must be eliminated.It is these qualities of vandals as corrupted youth that turns them into ideal victims– as representing cadres‟ alter-image, in being already sacred objects for Maoist activism,and by nature of their corruption. In the revolutionary sacrifice, it is not enough forsomething to be corrupt to become a victim; it must at the same time be a youth (or anothersacred quality) 10 so that the symmetry between cadres and gunda/tyape rests on astructural analogy of both opposition and sameness. Both substances share the sameform (youth) but with opposing qualities. The sacrifice can now be performed withoutfurther delay because what transpires in the ritual climax when corrupt youth are sacrificedat the hands of the cadres – that is, punished and corrected, not killed – is that theenergy of the victim flows into the sacrifier precisely because of their proximity ofidentity (Hubert & Mauss 1964:12), their mutual sacrality and the single most importantfact, of course – that the cadre, as the sacrificer, wields the instrument of the sacrifice.In this way, the cadre‟s moral youth is reinvigorated through the sacrifice of corruptyouth. 11If we return to Bloch‟s frame of „rebounding violence‟, it now becomes possible tolink cadres and vandals through their symmetrical positions in the sacrificial structure.10 The victim I discussed in the Black Flag procession in the previous chapter – namely the President –can also be seen as a sacred victim. His sacredness consisted of a dual identity similar to that of corruptyouth: on the one hand he was corrupt - 'a little king' who had taken an 'unconstitutional' decision whicheventually brought down the CPN-M government; on the other, he was politically powerful. When combinedwith corruptness, this automatically turned someone into a perfect victim.11 Lecomte-Tilouine discusses how Maoists sacrifice of government soldiers during the People's War deniedthe latter the honor that has been customary in Nepali conceptions of sacrifice in war (2006). I thinkthe analysis I have offered may go some way to explaining this phenomenon. Since the victims are notpart of the Maoists' conception of the social order but stand outside the community - this is essentiallywhat the term 'anti-social' describes - there is no moral obligation to turn them into heroes.261


C H A P T E R 8What the sacrifice of symmetrical victims allows is similar to the external consumptionof vitality. Both youth and political actors represent vitality – the sacred for the Maoist –and the sacrifice of corrupt youth accomplishes a symbolic transfer of their vitality tocadres who thereby approach revolutionary personhood. In contrast to Bloch's analysis,what I am describing is an inverted consumption. For reincorporation, one has to consumethe same vitality that one killed but, for cadres, who are striving to become different,they consume a symmetrical substance, the same in one way (vitality) but opposedin another (corrupt versus the cadres‟ anti-selfishness). Cadres' 'rebounding violence'thus allows them to gain the strength of social being and to transcend it at the sametime. They simultaneously become more human (strong political actors) and more extrahuman(true representatives of the people). Another way of saying this is that the cadresare not consuming the substance of „youth‟ from their victims in the form of „corruption‟,and that it is sacrifice which transforms it into a different form: turning corruption(and particularly corrupt youth) into revolutionary morality (or, moral youth). 12Cadres‟ security work can thus be seen to produce the category of the victimthrough a securitization of the public and to identify victims with a form of corruptedyouth that stands in direct opposition to cadres‟ own reformed youth. Cadres and vandalsthereby become equal but opposed identities, resulting in a structural competitionbetween two forms of vitality that strive to define the contours of youth in the urban atmosphere.Targeting „corrupted youth‟ is thus more than a political strategy for „cleaning‟the public, it is also a way for cadres‟ to hegemonize the space of youth in post-warKathmandu. The symbolic framework of sacrifice helps accomplish this politicizationof youth identities, turning „corrupt‟ youth into ideal victims.12 On a curious note, it is interesting to think about this scenario in Rene Girard's terms. He argues thatsacrifice can be seen as a process whereby an internal conflict is solved by choosing a (random, but sacred)victim, externalizing it and finally sacrificing it to symbolically imitate the expulsion of evil fromthe community. From the perspective of the YCL, something similar happens to tyape and gundas here;identifying them as constituting the root of social evil and then expunging them from the social sphere bycorrecting, punishing or, in extreme cases, killing them. But, from another perspective, it is the exact oppositethat happens. A victim is identified, someone who is already outside moral society due to their corruptness.Sacrificing them neutralizes them (removes their corruptness) and allows them to return to society(similar to what Hubert & Mauss describe as desacralization). On the other hand, through this procedurecadres further distance themselves from society in becoming more perfect revolutionaries - strongerand more moral. In this reading, cadres seem to use the energy of the sacred victim's desacralization processto further sacralize themselves, and thus to shoot themselves further away from the social body. Cadresthus become more „pure‟ or „sacred‟ through these sacrifices of others‟ „youth‟.262


S E C U R I T I Z I N G T H E P U B L I CCONCLUSIONIn turning gunda and tyape into objects of a securitizing strategy, the political expressionof YCL activism built on distinct processes of revolutionary sacrifice and, in particular,the way in which post-conflict sacrifice came to revolve around the identity ofyouth. This connected not only Maoist idioms of cadreship that built on ideas of selflessnational service but also the particular form of YCL whole-timer cadreship in camps –with its invisibility and passivity – with the most aggressive forms of activism. The publicaspects of revolutionary sacrifice have therefore not just brought into the open newkinds of political exchange between cadres, the public, janata and youth victims; it hasalso illustrated the differences between sacrifices that are performed for the sake of „thepeople‟ – public processions, demonstrations and similar programs with a clear politicalgoal – and those that I have traced in this chapter, which are more narrowly focused ona battle over youth. While both can be said to help cadres reconnect to their sacrificialplea of becoming cadres in order to build a new society, the object of the first sacrificeis the „will of the people‟ – a politics for janata‟s sake – whereas in the sacrifice of corruptyouth it is cadres‟ self that is the goal. This also explains the formal difference betweenthe two. I have argued that political processions need the protective shield of thepublic from direct profanity and that cadres must be careful to remain unsoiled whenperforming this work. With youth sacrifice, these procedures are much less importantbecause both sacrifier and victim are already so sacred and because this sacrifice doesnot need to call forth the authority of the people; it is a „private‟ sacrifice whereby thesin of the victim passes into the cadre in the form of sacred youth.In this way, revolutionary sacrifice seems to be a vehicle for two processes; it becomesa political script for activism through, for instance, julus and bandhs, and it producescadreship by generating revolutionary subjectivity through the consumption of anexternalized victim. Cadres‟ sacrifice turns them into „revolutionary weapons‟. Throughself-sacrifices in the camp, cadres first turned themselves into victims by putting theirbodies and their selves at the service of the party (in the short-term) and the Maoist revolution(in the long-term). In public, these processes of self-sacrifice are then transformedinto strength – efficiency penetrated with sacrality. Here, YCL cadres do whatthe Maoist army PLA before them did – utilize their organizational strength and disciplinedtraining to invade, control and transform political bodies and, with limited accessto the institutional structures of society, they act on its public expressions: the singularevents or individuals that embody elite class interests and can therefore be targetedthrough political happenings or security work. In these expressions, YCL‟s concern, as Ihave argued here, is to politicize the public sphere by securitizing the public, turning it263


C H A P T E R 8into an object of concern and patrolling to keep this public body clean of anti-social, andanti-Maoist, substances. It illustrates YCL‟s specific strategies of sovereignty that drawson the power and political repertoires of sacrifice and the re-signification of revolutionarysacrifice in the democratic transition.264


CONCLUSIONRepeated breakdown of talks between the political parties and a continued inability todraft a new constitution has underlined the instability of the transitional phase. At a timeof renewed pessimism, youth cadres‟ assertive action and self-confidence offers a criticalperspective on youth and politics in Nepal but also one which is riddled with contradictionsand the prospect of failure. For one thing is YCL‟s efforts at forging new, nationalyouth identities that revolve around ethics of social service and changed moralitiesbut quite another is the question of desirable and productive forms of political culture.YCL has since its inception been stretched out between the expectation of theMaoist leadership that it should spearhead the continued revolution and its daily effortsat finding a model for participating in the political space of a democratic transition, andthis has not been easy. Up until the April 2008 election which brought the Maoist partyto power, it could chart a first-come first-serve template of change and was directly responsiblefor CPN-M‟s electoral victory. Since then, YCL has lost its former dominantposition particularly with regards to combating crime and engaging in social programs,and has primarily been active in limited political campaigns. On 3 November 2011, afteryears of political pressure, the Maoist-led government under Baburam Bhattarai asPrime Minister entered into a seven point agreement with the major political parties toseek an end to the impasse of the peace process. This included a plea to „dismantle‟ the„paramilitary structure of the YCL‟, thus putting an end to the era of the YCL as an organizationthat bridged two seemingly incompatible forms of politics: war and democraticnegotiation. Does that also spell an end for a particular kind of Maoist politics thatdrew its strength from a model of cadreship that built on the virtues of the revolutionarysoldier and the momentum of regenerative sacrifices?In this thesis I have argued that in order to understand the form and meaning of activismas one significant aspect of CPN-M‟s politics, we need to look at how cadreshipis constructed and experienced, that is to say the kind of political subjects cadres became,and how this distinct subjectivity was circulated and interpreted by party mem-


C O N C L U S I O Nbers themselves. I have suggested that to understand cadreship, we should follow thegeneration of low-level cadres from the moment they enter the party as rookies, throughtheir intermittent training, and into the public sphere where they bring their newknowledge and identities to bear upon the unfolding of political events. Only by seeinghow cadres develop their political subjectivities and make sense of their activism, I haveargued, can we properly appreciate the cultural logic that underpins CPN-M‟s version ofMaoist politics; this does not tell us many other things about the CPN-M as a politicalmachine – how its different organizational wings work, what its political priorities willbe, or how successful they may be – but it does give us a thorough understanding ofhow it mobilizes people to its vision of revolutionary change and the core values thatinform its community of members, and it therefore provides an important perspective onthe coherence and integration of a type of political movement that has become entirelydiscredited outside the limited arena of international Maoist organizations. By offeringan inside analysis of how a key organization in the CPN-M works, I hope to have provideda nuanced picture of what it means for ordinary people to become Maoist revolutionariesand how this forms a script of political subjectivity that may inform our debatesabout activism both inside and outside the academy.Following the young men and women into and through the training they receive asYCL whole-timers, the thesis has built on two significant „movements‟ in order to elaborateon a third: one is of young migrants who as low-class labor comes to Kathmanduas part of a livelihood strategy. Here they train the disciplining and hard work that isalready part of rural village life and they experience the submission connected withwork life in the factories. The second movement is of being young in the city. In Kathmandu,rural migrant laborers get acquainted with „youth‟ as a new category and watchit played out as a middle class consumption phenomena including the idleness of youngpeople who can afford to just hang out, smoke, flirt, and otherwise entertain themselves.The Maoist movement offers an alternative identity to that of the laboring migrant, andthis corresponds to the third movement that I have been tracing over the past chapters.This is a movement which builds on the disciplined self that understands how the roadto salvation goes through submission and which confronts the challenge of a youthwhich the low-class laborer can never properly fit into due to their socio-economic status;how can one be a youth – i.e. do something else than merely focus on livelihoodand survival – and do it in a respectful way? The answer is cadreship. Young peoplewho became YCL whole-timers moved from migrant-class to youth to political cadres,and it is this new role that they had to struggle with and turn into an identity, make theirown.266


C O N C L U S I O NIt is in this context that the camp emerges as an all-important site for producing cadreship.Neither a total institution in the Goffmanian sense but much more than simply acommune of fellow dwellers, it integrates a militarized party hierarchy and an ideologyof revolutionaries with a specific mode of dwelling that guides newcomers into an identityas cadres. The camp is an institution of training but also an institution of personaltransformation; it is place where one learns to struggle and to direct this struggle towardsoneself, giving way to the idea of „internal struggle‟ and the prinicipled battleagainst selfishness – the chief vice of the Maoist revolutionary. In effect, the campsimply helps laborers develop into cadres. While we may marvel at the camp andwhole-timer lives within it as an extreme and maybe even anachronistic form for producingsubjectivities, particularly in the „open‟ political environment of multiparty democracy,the camp itself as I have sought to show, is not the challenge for Maoist cadres.The laborers I have followed were already acquainted with that type of institutionalizeddiscipline and the script of submission from their position as unskilled laborers,and rather than something which needed to be resisted, the structuring power of camplife emerged as a „felicity condition‟ for those who were serious about transformingthemselves. It was therefore identities that underwent change within the institutionalconstraints of the camp, and it was this identity of the cadre and not the camp as a structure,which posed a challenge to the cadres. There was no need to resist the structuringpower of the camp because it was, like the rules and renunciations of a monastic life,simply an aid for one‟s personal change into a better person.This takes me to the theme of sacrifice. What I have tried to do is to par the questionof how one becomes a revolutionary through a program of discipline, labor and renunciationswith the problematics of Nepali Maoism and the historical context of ademocratic transition. How can one become a soldier of a Maoist revolution when therevolution is, for all practical purposes, over – when all that is seemingly left is a discursiveproduction of revolutionaryness encapsulated by a party machinery that has becomepart of the very system it claims to oppose, i.e. state-carrying? In this context, as Ihave shown, the revolution lives on in the subjectivity of cadres through the trope andexperience of sacrifice, and it is mainly for this reason that the analysis of cadreship isso central for understanding the CPN-M today. If we only look at the party machineryand its political strategies, we get a sense of a dying giant, torn apart by pressures fromwithout and within, and indeed one of the most popular „curiosities‟ noted by researchersand political commentators alike is the Maoist movement‟s historical ability not tosplit into factions since the onset of the People‟s War in 1996. One reason for this mayexactly be the manufacturing of a culture of sacrifice among its cadres, which has beenaided greatly by the generation of martyrs during the People‟s War, but which might267


C O N C L U S I O Nalso point to a certain monopolization of this ethic of activism; one that builds on anidea, that I have traced here through both Marxian and Arendtian notions, that to act politicallymeans taking one‟s obligation as a representative of people seriously. In a culturalenvironment where politics has historically been a system of patronage and privilegefor the elite and has since the democratization in 1990 grown to accommodate primarilymiddle-class identities and interests, the CPN-M might be the only popular partywhich caters to an alternative notion of political participation. Ironically, then, it seemsthat the liberalization of politics into a multiparty democracy encompassing the middleclassand its allegiance with globalized values of consumption might have strengthenedCPN-M‟s position as providing a different script for mobilizing people to politics,whether through a strategy of war or New Democracy.Sacrifice, as I have analyzed it here, has become the principal trope to encapsulatesuch an ethic of cadreship, and it consequently plays an important role throughout theprocess of mobilization. I have spoken of revolutionary sacrifice to distinguish it fromthe large body of literature on religious sacrifices but the processes I have traced aresimilar, from the preoccupation with erecting a boundary between sacred and profanerealms in order to mark the first as the sphere of the political where selflessness reigns,to the relationship established between cadres as sacrificers and janata as resemblingthe character of divinity, and to the elaborate preparation of the sacrificial procedure,which in the camp involves the sacralization of cadres and in public events relies onspatial or symmetric consecrations. As a script of activism, revolutionary sacrifice establishesthe authority of cadres to represent „people power‟ in the public sphere, thusenabling a symbolically effective procedure for mobilizing public support and counteracting„corrupted‟ persons such as the president and misguided youth. In short, it institutessovereignty, legitimizing and energizing Maoist transformations of social and politicalbodes.As a script of cadreship, sacrifice produces an experience of a distinct subjectivity,marked off from predominant civilian life by its stress on collectivity, pious behaviorand new ways of relating and laboring. Together, the sacrifice of cadreship, as it is producedthrough camp life, and the sacrifices of activism, as they unfold in public work,constitute the two faces of peace-time cadreship and they reinforce each other. Campsacrifices, by sacralizing cadres, lead to public sacrifices and they, in turn, reinvigoratethe link to janata (making them politically relevant) or the saliency of youth, as a forceof national transformation (making them personally relevant). Post-war sacrifices arethus regenerative not through blood as has been the case with war sacrifices both in theform of Hindu and Maoist soldiers, but through the symbolism of political events andthrough the identity of youth. It is along these lines that I have insisted that we cannot268


C O N C L U S I O Ndistinguish the political and the personal, as the latter is bound up with the regenerationof the former and vice-versa; the „political‟ experience of cadres is deeply personal, andit is only by realizing this that cadres succeed.In developing this double perspective on sacrifice as a mixture of the personal withthe political, I have argued that there are predominantly two aspects of themselves cadresare sacrificing in the course of their mobilization to transitory politics, and whichaccount for their ways of being political; these two are time and youth. Time is given ina complete no-nonsense fashion similar to the institution of chakari, as an empty commoditywithout conditions; it is a total sacrifice where cadres‟ put their selves at the disposalof the party without reservation and without an end. Youth, on the other hand, is amuch more complex entity. It is marked by a split, and while youthhood is seen as aforce that one can give, even a vitality that is necessary for the revolutionary project, itmust be tamed and put to the right purpose. While time is a neutral commodity, youthon the other hand is particular; it carries values about right and wrong, about the correctstruggle, about corrupted moralities. The reason why cadreship is not chakari and thereforenot unconditional, is simply because one does not only give an empty, uncriticaltime, but also the intentions of youthhood. Youth shoots off in all kinds of directions –love, entertainment, money, family – and can be a hard beast to control. Camp and publicsacrifices are different efforts at generating a productive force of youth and the pleaof whole-timer sacrifice – that the party can do with my time as they see fit – establishesa frame within which sacrifice attains a political expression through the trope of youth.In sacrificing youth, their own and others‟, activism blends political expressions not onlywith personal change but also with distinct sensibilities of personhood.Such an analysis of cadreship also gives us clues to when it breaks down, and thatis when it loses its sacrificial potency, when cadres can no longer connect their struggleswith janata. The demise of street-based party work following CPN-M‟s victory in theCA-election threatened to break the relevance of cadres‟ sacrifice, as did the slow realizationthat the party‟s maneuvering of political space did not institute significant changesfor „the poor and downtrodden‟ that cadres had signed up to fight for. At that point,the struggles that accompanied camp life became untenable, and cadres started revivingtheir previous strategies of navigating livelihoods, resuming a life of laboring or returningto their villages. It serves to show that the script of cadreship based on sacrifice wasinherently unstable and reflected the larger political circumstances within which theMaoist movement unfolded. Sacrifice may be a powerful script for political mobilization,but it is extremely hard to routinize given its radical ontology of personhood, and afailure to link cadres‟ personal struggle up with the generation of role models and politi-269


C O N C L U S I O Ncal change undermines sacrifice‟s revolutionary legitimacy. Without this qualification,it becomes irrelevant and powerless.Where does this leave Maoist politics and the CPN-M in its efforts at reformingNepali society and its political culture? A rapid succession of governments with the majorpolitical parties taking turns to act as Prime Ministers has done little to reform theclientelist nature of state structures and not much more to combat the inequalities andclass-structure of Nepali society that is otherwise CPN-M‟s main political goal. Enteringthe political mainstream has become just as difficult for the Maoists as critiquesfeared, and the question of just how committed the party is to its political vision ofchange has become the thorny issue within the anti-capitalist left camp that is threateningto undermine not only party unity – which may or may not be a good thing – butalso the organization of a progressive political platform. Being situated squarely withinthe geopolitical spheres of its two dominating neighbors and integrated into the worldeconomy through its cheap supply of labor and as a transit country for goods, the challengesof radical social reforms involve strategies that reach well beyond both the politicsof parliament, the street or the jungle, and it remains to be seen whether CPN-M‟sparticularly Nepali brand of Marxism with its strong stress on national sovereignty providesthe best model for bringing Nepal out of the democratic transition that it has effectivelybeen in since the 1990 Jana Andolan I.As a „revolutionary critique‟, my contribution highlights the challenges of mobilizingcadres to a distinct identity without inviting more openness regarding the strategiesand workings of the party. This is exactly the effect of an „ideological‟ party structure; itdoes create coherence and integration but at the risk of alienating cadres who are notinvited to understand the turbulent political landscape that its leaders are seeking to navigate.Presently, there is a division between deliberations on the revolutionary momentum– or the overall strategies of perpetuating change – and the mobilization of cadresthrough notions of sacrifice. The sacrificial structure where cadres sacrifice their ownyouth to battle enemy youth for the sake of people(„s liberation) is – despite its politicalcharacter – largely an internal procedure of the movement because it fails to render tangiblehow cleaning up youth liberates the poor, to put it in a nutshell. Revolutionary pietyis all very well, as is the project of forming an avant-garde revolutionary corps, but abloated party machinery with no uniform sense of direction and a culture of secrecydoes not provide a particularly fertile environment for educating people to a new socialand political ethic. The analysis I have provided of pietism as a principal model of attainingpolitical credibility reflects this challenge and points to processes of internalizationin producing cadreship as a way to overcome the paradoxes of a stalled revolutionthat pretends to be in motion. YCL whole-timers became the ones to carry this burden of270


C O N C L U S I O Nsignaling change through transforming themselves into sacrificing revolutionary subjects– into avant-garde youth – through a protracted sacrifice. And the camp was, as wehave seen, their accomplice.As an analytical for exploring political culture, I have mobilized the optic of sacrificeas a way to approach the constitution of cadre identities and the structure of politicalevents. This has allowed me to focus on the role of signification in framing politicalexperiences – of selfishness, collectivity, respect, equality to name but a few – and is, Ibelieve, a necessary maneuver for unpacking how the political is reproduced since sovereigntyis always based on a symbolic framework, what Thomas Blom Hansen termsthe „sublime‟ (Hansen 2001). Rather than treating Maoist signifiers as merely an ideologywhich forces its ontology onto its practitioners – as if it was only relevant for whatpeople „say‟ and not what they „do‟ to recirculate a classical anthropological refrain – Ihave sought to show that, just like the political and the personal, ideas and practicescannot be so conveniently separated. Sacrifice, I have found, is a productive way toopen up the question of political subjectivities because it insists that there is an irreducibilityto this cultural procedure, and that the very idea of what it means to be a personchanges character. From the perspective of sacrifice we cannot reduce the cadre to acontestation of cultural meaning and the distance between a subject and its actions thatthis implies, and neither can we resort to a „disenchanted‟ analysis of the power configurationsthat produce the political as a sovereign space. To be a cadre is not to wear amask but to engage with a concrete character of desires, strengths, weaknesses and ideas,and the „cultural work‟ of the Maoist cadre consists in turning this subjectivity intohim- or herself.A chief challenge for the Maoist movement in transforming into a mainstream politicalparty has been the routinization of the political force of martyrdom through whichit has historically legitimized its struggle to its cadres corps and Nepali society simultaneously.Post-war revolutionary sacrifice, it seems, does not regenerate very well sincethere are no martyrs to copy, and by being turned into forms of pietism it risks losing itspolitical edge ad well. The form of sacrifice I have traced might still be Maoist in conceptionbut in its invisibility and protractedness, it is doubtful how efficient a weapon itis as a lasting model of activism. With the CPN-M‟s decisive shift away from a politicalformula that, in YCL, sought to combine the efficiency of the war machine with streetcampaigns against social and political „evils‟, the question of cadreship has gained newrelevance as the party strives to form a new script for the ideal cadre. Whether this willstill revolve around the whole-timer‟s ability to give time unconditionally and the structureof sacrifice remains to be seen but cadreship in the Maoist movement is one of the271


C O N C L U S I O Nsignificant keys to unlocking the path that anti-capitalist activism will take and thereforea fruitful starting point for understanding Nepali political culture.272


APPENDICES


APPENDIX 1: GLOSSARY OF NEPALI TERMSBadhetta Compulsion. An idiom for cadres‟ sincerity about becoming activists.See Chapter 3.Bahira Outside. Used by cadres to refer both to the physical outside of the campand the moral outside of a non-cadre life. See Chapter 4 and 6.Balidan Self-sacrifice. The popular idiom for martyr sacrifices. Alternatively,tyagnu may be used to describe everyday acts of renunciation and sacrifice.See Chapter 2.Basnu To sit; to live; to stay. It is used in Chapter 5 when discussing disciplinedwaitingChakari Sycophancy, enacted through physical presence. Analyzed as an institutionalizationof giving time in politics. See Chapter 5.Cetana Consciousness. In CPN-M often used in connection with „political consciousness‟,rajnaitik cetana. See Chapter 6.Comrade Comrade. The standard way of cadres to refer to each other in public.Dai Literally, elder brother. A generalized kinship idiom that can be extendedto elder relatives and friends as a respectful title. Used by cadres to referto seniors in the Nayabasti hierarchy.Dalbhat Nepali standard diet of lentils (dal) and rice (bhat). Often served withfried vegetables on the side.Dukha Hardship; difficulty; sorrow. Cadres use this to refer to their life as laborers.See Chapter 2.Ghumnu Wandering; strolling. Analyzed as a form of leisure that was unavailableto cadres in the camp. See Chapter 5.Gunda Rascal, crook, hooligan, gangster. Usually only males. See Chapter 8.Janata The people. Used by cadres to refer to the principle they serve. See inparticular Chapters 2, 3, 4, 7.Karyakarta Cadre. CPN-M‟s name for its members.Krantikari Revolutionary. Another way to refer to Maoist cadres.Lal Salam Red Salute. CPN-M greeting. Accompanies a raised right-hand fist.Mannu Parne To give respect. A paradigm for hierarchical relations discussed in Chapter3.Maobadi The vernacular name for the CPN-M, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).Mathi-Talla High-low; above-below. Used by cadres to talk about the party hierarchy.See Chapter 3.275


Niyam Shiyam Rules and Regulations. Cadres‟ way of talking about membership policiesin the YCL. See Chapter 5.Part-Timers Abbreviated PT. CPN-M‟s name for their part-time activists.Sahu Owner; merchant; moneylender. A common way to refer to masters orguardians of household servants. Cadres used it to refer to their bossesfrom the small privately-owned factories in which they worked. SeeChapter 2.Samuhik(ta) Collective (samuhik); collectivity (samuhikta). A CPN-M idiom to describethe Maoist community and the idea of a general, as opposed toprivate, interest. Cadres contrast it to swartha, selfishness. See Chapter 4.Sangarsha Struggle. Part of a left-political vocabulary and linked to barga sangarsha„class struggle‟ and anta sangarsha, „intra-struggle‟.Surti Tobacco that is taken through rubbing its leaves into the palm of thehand. Very common in Nepal. See Chapter 6.Swartha Selfishness. See Chapter 4.Tyape Anti-authoritarian „hippie‟; drug-user. See Chapter 8.Whole-Timers Abbreviated WT. CPN-M‟s name for their full-time activists.276


APPENDIX 2: ABBREVIATIONSANNISU-R All Nepal National Independent Student Union-Revolutionary. CPN-M‟sstudent wing. President Leknath Neupane.CPN-M Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Developed from Mohan BikramSingh‟s CPN (Fourth Convention) in 1974 through several splits andhave since 1986 been led by Prachanda. Was formally established inSeptember 1995 after a split in the CPN (Unity Centre) and. Changedname to Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in February 2009when it fused with the CPN (Ekata Kendra Masal). Chairman: Prachanda.PLA People‟s Liberation Army. CPN-M‟s armed wing during the People‟sWar. Established in 2001 and cantoned under the supervision of theUnited Nations Mission to Nepal following the peace agreement in November2006. Has been awaiting rehabilitation and/or integration into thenation‟s security forces.NC Nepali Congress. Until recently, Nepal‟s largest political party. Establishedin 1947. CPN-M‟s arch-rival and a dominant player in Nepalipolitics. President: Sushil KoiralaTarun Dal Youth wing of the Nepali Congress.UML CPN-UML, the United Marxist Leninist. Established in 1991 after theJana Andolan and quickly became a successful political party, winningthe general elections in 1994.YCL Young Communist League. Originally established in the 1980‟s and was„re-activated‟ following a Central Committee of the meeting of the CPN-M in November 2006. Chairman: Ganeshman Pun; party In-Charge: Sonam.Youth Force Youth wing of the UML.277


APPENDIX 3: SELECT NAYBASTI CADRESAshmi 24-year old female Rai from Khotang. Worked in a Jorpati carpet factory. Attendedschooling until grade 10 but failed her school leaving (SLC) exam. Startedin YCL during August 2008. Promoted to Vice Commander before February2009 and became a Section Commander in June 2009.Banhi 17-year old female Tamang from Dolakha. Studied until grade 4 and came towork in Jorpati‟s garment industry. Recruited in October 2008. Left YCL inJune 2009.Bibek 17-year old male Tamang from Makwanpur. Passed grade 5 in school and startedin Jorpati‟s garment industry when he was 15. Mobilized in October 2008.Damini20-year old female from the outskirts of Kathmandu. Studied until grade 3 andlater worked in a carpet factory in Jorpati. Started in YCL in January 2008 andbecame a Vice Commander in June 2009.Himal 18-year old male Tamang from Makwanpur. Worked as a laborer in Kathmandu‟sgarment industry since 2007, mobilized in September 2008. Studied untilgrade 5. Became an FGL in June 2009.Kamal 18-year old male Tamang from Makwanpur. Came to Kathmandu when he was15 and worked as a laborer in a furniture factory. Schooling until the age of 14.Mobilized to YCL in the fall of 2008.Rohit 19-year old male Tamang from Makwanpur. A history of migration since manyyears and spent three years in India. Worked in the local Jorpati industry beforebecoming a cadre. Schooling up to grade 5. Has been a member since YCL‟s establishmentin late 2006/early 2007. Was an FGL during early 2009, was promotedto Vice Commander in March and Section Commander in June.Suraj 18-year old male from a poor Newari family in Kathmandu. Worked in a furniturefactory and with painting before enrolling. Attended school up to grade 5.Started in YCL during the summer of 2007. Became an FGL in March 2009 andthen an Vice Commander in June 2009. Eventually left the YCL in October2009.Tara 18-year old male Tamang from Makwanpur. Studied up to grade 7. Worked in acarpet factory in Gorkhana (neighboring Jorpati) when he was mobilized. YCLmember since mid-2008.278


APPENDIX 4: LAYOUT OF NAYABASTI279


APPENDIX 5: NAYABASTI HIEARCHIESFigure 1: Nayabasti Hierarchy280


Figure 2: Section Hierarchy until June 2009281


282Figure 3: Section Hierarchy after June 2009


APPENDIX 6: MAJOR HISTORICAL EVENTSKingdom of NepalRana DynastyDemocratic ReformPanchayat EraJana Andolan IPeople‟s WarUnification of the country under the Gorkha kingdom followingPrithvi Narayan Shah‟s conquering of the Kathmandu Valley in1768.Hereditary aristocratic rule between 1846 and 1951 where theShah monarch was reduced to a figurehead. Continued the hinduizationof the country by formalizing the caste system throughthe Mulukhi Ain code in 1854.1951-1959. Overthrow of the Rana dynasty and the establishmentof political parties. The shah monarchs regain their power withKing Tribhuvan spearheading the country‟s transition to a parliamentarydemocracy but the period is marked by civil and politicalstrife and only in 1959 are the first elections held that theNepali Congress win.1960-1990. Partyless democracy under an autocratic monarch.King Mahendra (King Tribhuvan‟s son) carries out a royal coup,banning the political parties and promulgating a new constitution.The period is marked by centralized efforts development, nationalizationand modernization. Following a referendum in 1980where the political parties are allowed to contest, political repressionis partly lifted.„People‟s movement „, June 1990. Revolt against Panchayat ruleand the reestablishment of parliamentary platform with a liftingof the ban on political parties. Parliamentary elections are held in1991 allowing the Nepali Congress to form the first post-Panchayat government. A process of economic liberalization andpolitical turmoil mark the first years of democratic governance.1996-2006. CPN-M- led Maoist insurgency against the corruptionand undemocratic nature of the parliamentary system withthe aim of capturing state power and installing a Maoist „NewDemocracy‟. CPN-M mobilized widespread support in the ruralareas and managed to establish its own governance structures inseveral provinces. Conflict escalated between 2001 and 2006with the entering into the conflict of the Nepali Army and thefounding of the CPN-M‟s own army, the People‟s LiberationArmy (PLA).283


Jana Andolan II April 2006. Popular uprising against monarchical emergency rulebacked by the political parties and supported by the CPN-M. Reinstatementof parliament.CPAComprehensive Peace Agreement entered into by the CPN-M andthe 7-party alliance on November 21, 2006. Contained a roadmap for the peace process that included a management of boththe Maoist and state armies and the holding of Constituent AssemblyElections.Republic of Nepal 28. May 2008. The newly elected Constituent Assembly declaredthe Nepal a Federal Democratic Republic, breaking with morethan two hundred years of Hindu monarchial rule. After winninga land-slide victory, the CPN-M led the first elected post-wargovernment with its chairman Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal)becoming the first Prime Minister.CPN-M government 4 May 2009. Prime Minister and CPN-M Chairman Prachandafallsresigns from his post, following disagreements with the Presidentover the firing of the Chief of Army Staff and leading to widespreadpessimism about the future of the peace process.284


APPENDIX 7: TIMELINE OF POLITICAL EVENTS2006AprilJuneJuneNovemberNovemberCPN-M and Seven Party Alliance start pro-democracy agitation againstRoyal rule and draw wide public support with non-stop protests anddemonstrations taking place across the country. King Gyanendra agreesto reinstate parliament and Nepali Congress leader Girija Prasad Koiralais appointed as new Prime Minister on April 25 th .Maoists hold their largest open mass political rally in Kathmandu aftergoing underground. Over 200,000 attend. They demand the dissolutionof the newly formed government and the holding of a national round tableconference.8-Point Agreement is signed between the Government and the Maoistswith provisions to draft an interim constitution and form a new interimgovernment; to dissolve local Maoist governance structures and to inviteUN to manage and monitor arms of both side of the conflict. Prachandaholds his first public press conference.Government, leaders of the Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists signthe Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The CPA brings the armedstruggle of the CPN-M to a formal close.CPN-M forms the Young Communist League (YCL)2007JanuaryJanuaryJanuaryFebruaryAprilThe Interim Constitution is approved and the Interim Government with330-member parliament is established. The CPN-M is represented by 83members.Maoists issues orders to dissolve all their „people‟s governments‟ acrossthe nation as well as their „people‟s courts.‟United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) officially establishedcharged with monitoring the two armies‟ respect of the CPA.YCL holds its first national convention, establishing a 45-member CentralCommittee Inaugural ceremony of the YCL in Kathmandu, presidedover by CPN-M Chairman Prachanda. Ganeshman Pun declared as itsleader.An Interim Government headed by Nepali Congress leader Girija PrasadKoirala is formed and includes five CPN-M members. Leaders agree tohold the CA elections on June 20, 2007.285


Sept-October Escalating conflict between the Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists.CA elections first postponed to November 22 but are once again delayedas agreements cannot be reached on the future of the monarchy and theelectoral process to be adopted for fair representation. In September theCPN-M quite the Interim Government.December Maoist and the Seven Party Alliance reach an agreement that the newConstituent Assembly shall declare Nepal a republic after their firstmeeting and that the number of seats should be increased to 601. Maoistrejoin the Interim Government.2008AprilMayJulyAugustConstituent Assembly Election, CPN-M win 120 out of 240 seats in thefirst-past-the-post portion of the elections and 100 seat through proportionalrepresentation, amounting in total to a 33% dominance in Parliament.Nepal is declared a republicRam Baran Yadav of Nepali Congress becomes the president of NepalThe Constituent Assembly elects Prachanda as the first Prime Minister ofFederal Democratic Republic of Nepal. Nepal Congress does not join thegovernment but remains in opposition and boycotts parliament sessions.2009JanuaryJanuaryFebruaryFebruaryFebruaryNepali Congress ends it boycott of Parliament after a new agreement isreached with the CPNM: the Maoists are to ensure the return of all seizedproperty during the People‟s War within 90 days; and the YCL will haveto vacate all public and government buildings that it occupies as well asdissolve its paramilitary structure within three weeks.YCL is renamed YDCL, Young Democratic Communist League butwithin a month the name change is dropped.CPN-M changes its name to United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)after merger with Communist Party of Nepal – Ekata Kendra Masal.In the face of strong opposition by the Maoist Defense Minister RamBahadur Badal, the Nepali Army announces that it will go ahead withplans to fill 2,800 vacancies which is seen by the Maoists as a breach ofthe CPASenior Maoist Matrika Prasad Yadav defects from the CPN-M and hisministerial post, taking a number of cadres with him.286


Mar-AprilMay 4MayMay-JulyAugustConflict escalates between the Government and the Nepali Army. Initiallythe PLA announces job vacancies similar to the Nepali Army but theseare later cancelled. Chief of Army Staff General Katawal is asked to respondto a series of questions on the army‟s strategies but refuses to doso.Prime Minister Prachanda fires Chief of Army Staff Katawal. A fewhours later President Yadav annuls the firing of Katawal. The followingday, Prachanda resigns from his post as Prime Minister.On 25 May, Madhav Kumar Nepal from the CPN-UML is installed asnew Prime Minister.In protest of the President‟s overruling of the PM‟s decision to sack thearmy chief, Maoist lawmakers obstruct parliamentary procedures andstreet protests against the President and the new Prime Minister are carriedout by Maoist cadres. Maoists‟ threaten to launch Jana Andolan III,a new people‟s movement.YCL begins a new recruitment drive.287


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