Popular struggles in Nepal and Bolivia
Movements for democracy in Nepal
• April 2006: Movement to restore democracy.
• Nepal – one of the 3rd wave countries-democracy in 1990, but king remained the head of the state – real power by elected representatives.
• King Birendra-accepted the transition of absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy-killed in mysterious massacre of the royal family in 2001, King Gyanendra- new king, not ready to accept democracy.
• Took advantage of the weakness and unpopularity of democratically elected government, Feb 2006 – dismissed the then PM and dissolved the popularly elected parliament.
• Major political parties- parliament – formed a 7 party alliance (SPA)-4 day strike at Kathmandu – gave ultimatum to the king, half hearted concessions not accepted, demand for restoration of democracy, power to all party govt. & a new constituent assembly.
• Maoists: - Communists who believe in the ideology of Mao, leader of Chinese revolution – seek to overthrow the govt. by a series of armed revolution to establish rule of peasants and workers.
• 24th April – Girja Prasad Koirala – new PM, powers of king taken, Maoists – understanding about how the new constituent assembly was to be elected --- Nepal's 2nd movement for democracy.
Bolivia's water war
• Poland, Nepal – restoration of democracy; but, people's successful struggle for water in Bolivia reminds us - popular struggles are integral to the working of democracy.
• Bolivia – poor country, Latin America: World Bank pressurized the govt. to give up its control of municipal water supply – govt. sold these rights to a MNC which increased its price by 4 times =>protest!
• Jan 2000 – successful 4 day general strike, govt. agreed to negotiate. Strike called off.
• Nothing happened – police replied brutally when agitation restarted in Feb, April – Martial Law imposed – but MNC was forced to flee and govt. had to concede the demands – contract with MNC was cancelled & water supply was restored to municipalities --- Bolivia's water war
Democracy and popular struggles
• Both the struggles were successful, but impact at different levels.
• Similarities between the 2 are that both :-
>>Instances of political conflict that led to popular struggles.
>>Struggle involved mass mobilization.
>>Public demonstration of mass support clinched (settle) the dispute.
>>Involved critical role of political organizations.
• Spontaneous public participation becomes more effective with the help of organized politics :-
>>Some significant decisions may take place through consensus (agreement) and may not involve any conflict at all.
>>Defining moments of democracy usually involve conflicts betn those groups who have exercised power & those who aspire for a share in power.
>>These moments come when the country is going through transition to democracy, expansion of democracy or deepening of democracy.
>>Democratic conflict is resolved through mass mobilization, by existing institutions, parliament or judiciary.
• These conflicts and mobilizations are based on new political organization - (Pressure groups, movement groups).
Mobilization and Organizations
• Movement in Bolivia led by FEDECOR – organization comprised of local professionals, including engineers & environmentalists – were supported by farmers who relied on irrigation, confederation of factory workers' unions, mid class students from Cochabamba, street children etc.
• Different organizations behind any big struggle-play their role in 2 ways :-
o Influencing the decisions – direct participation in competitive politics. By creating parties, contesting elections & forming govt.
o Every citizen doesn't participate directly – indirect methods – forming an organization and undertaking activities to promote their interests and viewpoints – Interest Groups.
o Some times people decide to act together without forming organizations.
Pressure groups and Movements
• Pressure Groups – organizations-attempt to influence govt. in politics – unlike political parties, pressure groups do not aim to directly control or share political power – Are formed when people with common occupations, interest, opinions come together to achieve a common objective.
• Some movements: Nepal movement, NBA, Movement for right to info, Anti-liquor movement, Women's Movement.
• Comparison with Interest groups – influence politics indirectly without taking part in electoral competition; unlike interest groups. – Movements have loose organization, decision making more informal and flexible; depend more on spontaneous mass participation than interest groups.
Sectional interest groups and public interest groups
• Sectional interest groups :-
>>Interest groups seek to promote the interests of a particular section or group of society like trade unions, business associations, professional doctors, teachers etc.
>>Sectional because – represent a section of society like workers, employees, etc.
>>Principle- betterment and well being of their members, not society in general. Eg. FEDECOR, Bolivian org.
• Public Interest Groups(Promotional Groups)
>>Promote collective rather than selective good, aim to help groups other than their own members. Eg. Group fighting against bonded labour fights for those suffering from its bondage.
>>Sometimes the activities may benefit them as well as others also. Eg. BAMCEF (Backward and Minorities community Employees Federation.
>>Mostly are issue specific that seek to receive a single objectie within a limited time frame. Eg. Nepalese movement, Narmada Bachao Andolan.
>>Others are General or Generic movements that seek to achieve a broad goal in a very long term. Eg. Environmental movement, Women's movement.
>>NAPM – National Alliance for People's Movements – an organization of organizations.
Pressure groups and movements influence politics in many ways :-
>>They try to gain public support and sympathy for their goals and their activity by carrying out information campaigns, organizing meetings, file petitions etc. – try to give more attention to these issues-attract media
>>Often organize protest activity like strikes and disrupting govt. programmes. Workers' organsistion, employees' association, resort to these tactics in order to force the govt. to take note of their demand.
>> Business groups often employ professional lobbyists or sponsor expensive advertisements.
>> In some instances the pressure groups are either formed or led by the leaders of political parties. Eg. Trade unions and students' organizations in India.
>> Sometimes political parties grow out of movements. Eg. When Assam movement led by students came to an end, it led to the formaton of the Asom Gana Parishad.
>> In most cases the relationship between parties and interest or movement groups is not so direct. They often take positions that are opposed to each other.
Is their influence healthy?
• May initial appear unhealthy for groups that promote interest of one section to have influence in democracy – A democracy must look after the interest of all not just one section.
• It may seem that these groups wield power without responsibility-political parties have to face people in elections, but these groups are not accountable to the people. Pressure groups may not get their funds from the people.
• Merits or positive aspects of pressure groups :-
>>Pressure groups and movements have deepened democracy. Putting pressure on the rulers is a healthy activity in democracy as long as everyone gets this opportunity.
>>Govt. can often come under undue pressure from small group of rich and powerful people. Public interest groups and movements perform a useful role of countering the undue influence and reminding the govt. of the needs and concerns of ordinary citizens.
>>Sectional interest groups play a valuable role. Where different groups function actively, no one single group can achieve dominance over society. If one group brings pressure on govt. to make policies in its favour, another will make counter pressure not to make the policies in the way the first group desires.
>>This leads to rough balance of power of accommodation of conflicting interests.