Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Finding a niche


According to the pundits of Nepali politics, the new CPN-Maoist will formally occupy the place which has been left vacant for the last six years: the ultra-left or the radical left. The vacuum arose after the then CPN (Maoist) entered peaceful politics in 2006. But is this prognosis right?

It bears noting that all of major parties in Nepal—Nepali Congress (NC), CPN (UML) as well as UCPN (Maoist)—got to power on the back of arms. NC raised arms against the Rana regime. The Purba Koshi Prantiya Committee, the precursor to CPN-UML, raised arms in the early 1970s to establish “new democratic system”, in what came to be known as the ‘campaign to finish class enemy’ or Jhapa revolt. It was under the influence of the Naxalite revolution in India under Charu Mazumdar. Only after the 1990 did the party adopt People’s multiparty democracy.

The Maoists decided to walk the path abandoned by CPN-UML, but soon they too abandoned the ‘revolutionary’ course after compromising with parliamentary parties. A group of Maoists led by Mohan Baidya Kiran instantly blamed Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Baburam Bhattarai as renegades of revolution. The blaming faction eventually split with the stated goal of completing the incomplete revolution. The new party’s political line is to launch people’s revolt (along the Russian model of revolution) by building on the foundation of the 10-year’s people’s war.

The tendency of Nepali political parties, left or right, has been more or less the same, with all armed struggles ending in compromises at certain point. The compromise fulfils the main leadership’s interests, while conveniently sidelining all agendas raised during the armed struggle. These incomplete revolutions are the reason armed struggles have become a bit of a norm in Nepal.

Reviewing Nepali armed struggles, the then CPN (Maoist) had vowed to complete the ‘revolution’, terming their movement the next edition of Jhapa revolt.

Interestingly, now, the same claim is being made by CPN-Maoist. The new Maoist party has claimed legacy of the decade-long people’s war and has vowed to complete the revolution. Thus it does look like CPN-Maoist is going to occupy the ‘revolutionary space’ of former CPN (Maoist).

CPN-Maoist was formed by blaming UCPN (Maoist) leadership of betrayal of the revolution. The strength of the new party is that it retains the core group of leaders and cadres who took active part in people’s war. The new Maoist party has shouldered all important agendas like national sovereignty and radical land reform that UCPN (Maoist) seems to have given up on.

But the bitter past of incomplete communist movements makes even those within the party suspicious. At their recently concluded general convention, party representatives questioned: What was the guarantee that the likes of Mohan Baidya and Netra Bikram Chand would not change into another versions of Dahal and Bhattarai? When this scribe asked the newly-elected chairman Baidya the same question, Baidya put forth two solutions to forestall such a possibility. First, the party would develop and practice collective leadership. Second, the party would immediately embark on the process of harnessing a new generation of successors to current leadership. According to Baidya, this will prevent the dangerous centralization of power as witnessed in UCPN (Maoist).

With its experienced leadership and cadre base, CPN-Maoist has a real opportunity to create itself a decent space in Nepali political landscape. It can do so by cashing in on the failure of major parties—UCPN (Maoist), NC and UML—which, the party can claim, led to the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly. After all, neither could these ‘mainstream’ parties complete the peace process, nor could they promulgate the constitution.

Also, Nepal is a fertile ground for the ultra-left because of its widespread poverty and discriminations based on caste, region and class. All the major parties raised arms to address these agendas, but in the end the parties and the people have ultimately been betrayed by the political leadership.
With its experienced leadership and cadre base, CPN-Maoist has a chance to carve a decent space in Nepali politics.

There is also heightened awareness among dalits, women and ethnic communities following the 10 years of civil war to take into consideration. Sidelined by the elite class and rulers, the then CPN (Maoist) had successfully cashed in on these issues in the past. Since most of the issues of these marginalized communities are still unaddressed, there is great potential for the new Maoist party.

The truth is that without an overhaul of the old structure of Nepali society and end to deep-rooted discriminations, the ‘ultra left’ would continue to find space. If the new-fangled Maoists succeed in cashing in all types of dissatisfactions and injustices, it could still establish itself. However, the ruling elite, ruling class and mainly Kathmandu-based intellectuals, media, political parties, international community, NGO/INGOs will stand strongly against the Maoists who they will continuously blame for acting against ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’.

But perhaps more than anything else, the future of CPN-Maoist in Nepali polity will depend on its ability to address longstanding issues through a new model of revolution.

The author is a reporter with Republica and handles the Maoist beat

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