NEPAL’S NATIONALISTS BETTER NOT SQUANDER SCARCE OPPORTUNITY


Erle Frayne  Argonza

Nationalists are in power today in Nepal. Being a Filipino nationalist, I’d honestly say there is much cause to celebrate the Nepalese nationalist’s victory.

Here in my country, we Filipino nationalists have always been in the margins. No matter what efforts we do to create a modern nation-state, our efforts get stalled by the forces of the ancien regime (landlord-clergy classes) that dominate power in the economic, political and cultural domains in my country.

Nepal is in a very privileged position than the Philippines for that matter. The forces of the ancien regime, typified by the Monarch, were overthrown from power, by way of a parliamentary fiat that abolished the Kingship. Before that, a bloody war was waged by Maoists to forge a modern, secular society. 

All the major parties in power today—Congress, Marxists, Maoists—are harbingers of the Enlightenment principles of reason, liberty, brotherhood, and progress. Much like those liberal revolutionists of France and the USA in the 18th century, the Nepalese nationalists have smashed the old order and now have to face the formidable challenges ahead as they forge a modern nation-state with a modern economy and scientific culture.

The only competing forces in Nepal now are the nationalists themselves—the three parties concerned. True, ideological differences may be a barrier to their attainment of certain unities or consensus, but they are all united by a common cause of building a modern nation-state,  a cause that began with the demolition of the old order.

Sure, the challenges are very colossal, the tasks formidable. But what nation on Earth started  nationhood with its national life already served unto it like a lake of gold? Every nation started from down below, from rock bottom. From Cromwell’s modern England to Nepal’s post-monarchic states, the same narrative is the glaring truth: start from rock bottom, a nationalist revolution is no ‘tea party’.  

My country started in 1946 as an independent nation with a totally devastated economy. Manila, the jewel of the orient, was leveled back to the Stone Age by ceaseless carpet bombing to flash out the Japanese imperial forces in 1945. Agriculture, manufacturing and retail/wholesale trade were all flat on the ground. A communist insurgency was also brewing as the Cold War was starting.

And so the new Philippine nation had to start from the very scratch. It had to undertake an ambitious 3-year recovery to bring back the normal vibrance of the pre-war economy. Then, in 1948, it began the long road to industrialization, with the implementation of the new Economic Development Program. The Master Plan for Greater Manila Area (50-year plan) began implementation in 1949, which saw Manila’s recovery and expansion to the suburban areas where industries, residences, government offices, new universities, and new commercial centers were to rise and mark the dynamism of the new country.

It was so tough surmounting the gargantuan problems. There was the corruption that was seen in the implementation of the wartime recovery funds ($200 aid from the USA), squatting in Manila, communist insurgency arising, and the lack of technocrats (manpower) to undertake development planning to name a few. And there was landlordism that barred an effective land reform program to take off.

Amid the marginal state of nationalists’ influence and power, the new nation moved on and achieved results gradually. Much like the slow-moving carabao (water buffalo), the economy moved so slowly across the decades, yet it delivered the goods just the same. Because we nationalists are marginal here, it’s taking us a tough time to let the ‘rule of law’ permeate daily life, strengthen our institutions, construct definitive policy environments, and solve poverty.

Because the oligarchic/pro-colonial forces have been the ones in power since the start of the new Philippine republic, they kept on deterring change. Even our political parties here are no modern parties that are founded on solid ideology, but rather are platforms to advance the vested interests of leading political personalities.

Yes, the problems of nationhood are so gargantuan like what we’re going through in my country. But they can be solved. And many sympathetic forces around the world are there who can lend their support when necessary.

So, to our brother and sister Nepalese, most especially the modernist-nationalists, your chance to move up has come. Good luck to your efforts! You shall overcome!

[Writ 02 June 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

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