Saturday, April 27, 2013
Are Maoists a parliamentary party?
"Chhori, don´t say lal salam. Say namaste," Jiban Lama, former PLA commander of Lalitpur, told his daughter outside the textile factory at Hetauda, the venue of the UCPN (Maoist) general convention. The daughter was raising her right hand in a lal salam greeting to his father´s comrades.
Jiban´s wife is leader in Makawanpur. The Lama couple were representatives to the general convention. The couple and their daughter were at the general convention venue as the comrades were leaving before the conclusion of the general convention. Jiban´s friends were still giving lal salam greetings. So, why was Lama telling his daughter not to lal salam?
After the Hetauda general convention, the UCPN (Maoist) formally converted into a parliamentary party. Perhaps, Lama was reflecting this formal turning of the page by his party.
Let’s move on to the changed understanding of the Maoists by the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML. Both parties have now been confining their outbursts to just reacting to issues raised by the Maoists. After the deployment of the Nepal Army in the former people´s liberation army (PLA) cantonments, both parties have left off saying that the Maoists are still enamored of their guns and still want to capture the state by force.
The February 2, 2013 picture shows inaugural function of the seventh general convention of the UCPN (Maoist) at Hetauda. (Chandra Shekhar Karki)
Does this show that the Maoists have really joined the parliamentary system? Or, in the words of the NC and UML, have the Maoists really turned to a ´democratic´ path?
Chunbang meeting: tipping point toward parliamentary party
The first step in converting to a parliamentary party was the Chunbang meeting of 2005. The meeting decided to accept the multiparty system.
During Chunbang, Mohan Baidya, the second man in the party, and other Maoist leaders were in Indian jails. They were released only after the peace process, and since then the Baidya faction leaders have been calling during informal meetings for a review of Chunbang.
So, converting to a parliamentary party is not something new. UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and other leaders have been lying to the people and to their cadres when they say the party will complete the unfinished revolution. NC and the UML have been criticizing the Maoists for what their top leaders keep saying at mass gatherings for public consumption.
Finally, the Mohan Baidya-led faction formed a new party, CPN-Maoist, claiming that it was out to end all discrimination and bring a Naya Janabad to Nepal. The Baidya-led Maoists accused Dahal and Bhattarai of betraying the revolution and the people and exchanging the blood of the martyrs for power.
The main reason for the party split was the conversion to a parliamentary party from a revolutionary one. Dahal tried to turn Baidya into a leader of a parliamentary party and Baidya tried to keep Dahal a revolutionary leader. Dahal and Baidya both failed and finally the party split.
Political analyst Krishna Khanal says, "The Maoists turned to a parliamentary party system at Chunbang."
Hetauda general convention: Maoists formally turn into parliamentary party
With the deployment of the Nepal Army in the PLA cantonments, Dahal and Baburam Bhattarai had already handed over the weapons to quell voices against the deviation of the leaders and commanders as well as against corruption issues. At the Hetauda general convention, the UCPN (Maoist) formally turned into a parliamentary party, disarming itself in terms of ideology also.
"The Hetauda general convention disarmed the ideology whereas the weapons had already been handed over," said another political analyst, Mumaram Khanal.
"The Maoists had started to turn into a parliamentary party from the Chunbang meeting but they formally went the full course at Hetauda," added Krishna Khanal.
Why Maoists turned parliamentary
The Dahal-led Maoists now have no political program except how to get back into government and, if the election is held, how to get a majority, said
Mumaram Khanal. He argued that Dahal will never again speak of state capture. "The Maoist policy will be just to go into government with a majority," he added.
Challenges to converting into parliamentary partyThere is no doubt that Dahal, Bhattarai and Narayan Kaji Shrestha have formally converted into parliamentary party leaders. Dahal and Bhattarai want to make the party a parliamentary one, and welcome all types of leaders and cadres to make it the largest party. For that the party should be ready to be more liberal than the UML. But Shrestha does not want to do that. He wants it to remain a communist party at least in name. The issues of nationality raised by him reflect how he wants to differ from Dahal and Bhattarai. He raised these issues at Hetauda but Dahal and Bhattarai were not ready to discuss them at the hall.
Challenges are seen at the lower levels. It is very difficult to persuade the cream of the Maoist cadres.
Those cadres still believe that under the Dahal-led Maoists society will be rid of discrimination and all the poor can get a chance to live as equals. Dahal still keeps saying that his party will complete the unfinished revolution. The cadres and lower-level leaders still believe that Dahal will take up a program to complete the revolution. And they are waiting.
Their number is large among the Dahal-led Maoists.
"Dahal will continue his campaign to welcome into the party people from both the parliamentary parties and the former royalist parties. In the past, they turned the Baidya faction into a minority and now he will sideline, kick out or render into a minority those who still have any revolutionary zeal," said political analyst Kumar Shah.
According to Maoist insiders, Dahal now has the single agenda of welcoming into the party anyone and everyone.
First, Dahal will try to convert the Maoist cadre cream to the parliamentary system. If they do not convert, he will sideline them or not give them any responsibility. And finally they will leave the party.
"All those who refuse to convert to a parliamentary party will shift to another revolutionary party. It is very difficult to convince them," said a Maoist insider.
"As Dahal himself has been saying that the party will complete the unfinished revolution, the Maoists cannot turn fully into a parliamentary party without undoing their old mindset."
Maoist insiders say that Dahal will try to prolong the transition phase in the party by keeping various issues under debate in the party.
Baidya can find himself in same position as Dahal
If we look at the history of the communist parties, there is a whole series of communist parties turning into parliamentary parties once they gain power. And another party takes the place of the earlier communist party.
After the fifth general convention of the CPN-UML, the party converted totally into a parliamentary party. Then what happened? The then CPN (Maoist) led by Dahal took the path of revolution, claiming to be the heir to the revolution which was abandoned in the street. The UML turned into a parliamentary party after gaining power, mainly through the Jhapa revolt launched by the then Koshi coordination committee, which was the seed of the then CPN (Marxist and Leninist).
The same thing has been repeated now. When Dahal led the Maoists’ conversion into a parliamentary party the Baidya-led faction formed the CPN-Maoist, declaring themselves to be the successor revolutionary forces and claiming that they would complete the unfinished revolution. They also accused Dahal of betraying the revolution and the people.
Krishna Khanal gave the example of how in Nepal´s political history a party gains power by armed struggle and then takes to a peaceful path.
"UML turned to parliamentary politics but all communist parties could not move along with it. The CPN-Maoist took up arms. After gaining power, Dahal come to the same path that he had earlier rejected. The same thing can happen in the case of Baidya," said Khanal.