Prashant Jha


At a recent meeting, the Maoists expressed their commitment to peace and the constitutional process but also decided to prepare for a revolt.


Four years after a peace accord at the end of Nepal’s civil war, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is going through a deep existential crisis. This was most starkly reflected in the separate political documents presented by chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda,’ senior vice-chairman Mohan Vaidya Kiran,’ and another vice-chairman and ideologue Baburam Bhattarai at an extended party meeting in Palungtar of Gorkha district. Almost 6000 delegates  including 1200 Maoist combatants from United Nations-monitored cantonments  reviewed the party’s achievements and failures after entering the peace process.


At the end, the Maoists expressed their commitment to peace and the constitutional process but also decided to simultaneously prepare for a general revolt if their aims were not met. But the meeting’s real significance lay in the party’s failure to resolve the fundamental ideological and political differences.


In 2005, at a meeting in Chunbang in mid-western Nepal, the Maoists adopted the democratic republic’ path. This led to an alliance with other political parties against monarchy, the 2006 People’s Movement, entry into the peace process, the CA elections and the abolition of monarchy. After taking over the reins of the government in 2008, the Maoists met at Kharipati on Kathmandu’s outskirts and announced that their aim was to establish a People’s Federal Democratic Republic.’ The other parties viewed this as a shift in goalposts, and attributed the Maoist attempt to dismiss the army chief to this radical turn.


If Chunbang was the result of an alliance between Mr. Prachanda and Mr. Bhattarai, Kharipati saw Mr. Prachanda come closer to the dogmatic ideologue Mr. Kiran. Since then, the political, peace and constitutional process has stalled. The other political parties and India accuse Maoists of turning their back on democracy, and say they cannot be trusted with power till they detach the party from the People’s Liberation Army. For their part, the Maoists accuse India and the other parliamentary parties of collaborating to  isolate  them despite their proven electoral strength and subvert progressive political change including the democratization of Nepal Army.’


It was in this backdrop that the Maoists met. The three leaders have key differences on a range of issues  the  principal contradiction;  the correct  revolutionary line;  the immediate tactics; and the problems facing the organization.


PRINCIPAL CONTRADICTION: An old debate in Nepal’s communist movement is whether  nationalism  or  democracy  is the primary objective in the  semi-colonial and semi-feudal  Nepali context. In 2005, the Maoist party declared  feudalism  the principal enemy and decided to ally with the parties and India in the quest for a democratic republic. After the abolition of monarchy, this debate stirred up again with a section arguing that the party’s principal goal must now be  nationalism.


Mr. Prachanda told party delegates in Palungtar that the principal contradiction of the Nepali people lay in the alliance between  India and domestic reactionaries.  He claimed that India had choreographed political opposition to the Maoist move to dismiss the army chief; blocked political agreement between Nepali actors; stopped Madhesi parties from supporting him in the recent prime ministerial elections; begun intimidating the Nepali media; and was hatching conspiracies to dissolve the CA. In his document, Mr. Kiran agreed with Mr. Prachanda’s assessment that India was the main enemy.


On the other hand, Mr. Bhattarai emphasized that the principal contradiction was with the  remnants of feudalism, domestic reactionaries, comprador bourgeoisie and brokers  who received Indian protection. He argued that it would be incorrect, besides being tactically naòve, to label India the enemy until it had militarily invaded Nepal. The primary task was to institutionalize federal democratic republic through a written constitution. It was only by addressing livelihood issues, becoming self-reliant, and creating national unity that an outside power could be fought. The meeting ended with the question of  principal contradiction  unresolved.


The debate has real political implications. Mr. Prachanda’s effort to carve out a  nationalist alliance  has led him into pacts with former royalists, who blame India for the abolition of monarchy. He has also sought Chinese support to neutralize India’s role, though with limited success as Beijing has asked him to mend fences with India. Mr. Bhattarai in turn has condemned the party’s understanding with  feudal landlords, monarchists, and opponents of federalism  as a betrayal of the political mandate.


FUTURE LINE: The Palungtar plenum revealed the complex equation among the three leaders. Mr. Prachanda and Mr. Bhattarai defended the Chunbang decision to enter the peace process; Mr. Kiran was doubtful about its wisdom. Mr. Bhattarai and Mr. Kiran accused the chairman of vacillating in his political stand, and of financial non-transparency. And Mr. Prachanda and Mr. Kiran accused Mr. Bhattarai of being an  Indian stooge.  But there were areas of agreement.


All three emphasized that the aim was to constitute a  People’s Federal Republic.  While none of them defined it explicitly, other party documents have often elaborated on the elements of such a political structure an executive Presidency at the centre; federalism with ethnicity/nationality as a prominent basis; an  equal  relationship with India;  democratization  of the Nepal Army through the integration of former PLA combatants and firmer civilian control; first rights’ to local communities regarding natural resources; revolutionary land reform; and restricted multiparty political competition in which  anti-imperialist and anti-feudal  parties would not be allowed to operate.


There was also a consensus that the PLA must not be  dissolved, dismantled or humiliated.  This assumes importance as non-Maoist parties have demanded immediate movement on the PLA as a precondition to constitution writing.


But there was a clear divergence on the future line and immediate tactics. In his document, Mr. Kiran argued that since there was no chance of such a  people’s constitution  being drafted, the party should now focus on revolt and strengthen the organization for the purpose. Mr. Bhattarai, however, said that in a context where the CA was dominated by the  proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie,  a progressive constitution was definitely possible.


Mr. Prachanda, for his part, sought to portray his line as fighting against both Mr. Bhattarai’s  right wing revisionism  and Mr. Kiran’s  ultra left orthodoxy,  but claimed he felt closer to Mr. Kiran’s position. Explaining the present situation as one of sharpened polarization between those in favour of  national independence and progressive change  and those who wish to thwart the change, Mr. Prachanda reiterated that while the party’s objective would be  peace and constitution,  it would simultaneously prepare for a general revolt. While this  dual line  was passed, Mr. Prachanda was unable to get his document approved at the meet.


The Maoist deliberations could further complicate the prospects of a fresh political settlement in Nepal. In seeking to maintain his supremacy and  revolutionary  image, Mr. Prachanda has incorporated several elements from the Maoist strand, limiting negotiating space with other parties on issues such as the PLA. The radical rhetoric of the Maoist leadership in front of the cadre has only strengthened the right-wing hawks, who have been itching for a confrontation. The hostile position against India would not have won them any friends in Delhi either.


India and the democratic parties in Nepal should introspect whether their actions have contributed to Maoist insecurity and belligerence over the past year. But it is crucial for Mr. Prachanda to show true statesmanship and reiterate the Maoist commitment to past agreements, stick to federal democratic republic as the goal, move to fulfil the Maoist end of the peace process and retain focus on constitution writing.


(The Hindu January 5, 2011, supplied by SACW)

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