The creed that failed
- Nepal’s communists are engaged to an ideological slogan but married to a capitalist pattern.
Jun 4, 2019-
By now there should be no ambiguity about the mainstream communists in Nepal, who are engaged to an ideological slogan but married to a capitalist pattern, but without the required commitment and discipline. The gruelling unification of the Nepal Communist Party might have been finally formalised at least on paper. It might require the UML faction to jack up one or two radical ideas toward what it used to uphold until 1990. The Maoist faction, too, needs to shed much of the remnants of the radicalism it once chanted, and appreciate the value of moderation and rule of law.Established in 1949 and outlawed in 1954 until the ban was lifted in 1955, the Nepal Communist Party has had a chequered history, but the post-1990 period has been one of scintillating ascendancy to power peaking in the 2018 polls. Today, the Nepal Communist Party’s countdown for a distinct decline might not be far behind. Divided into more than half a dozen groups, the mainstream communists in Nepal differ only in style and use of rhetoric. They swear by political pluralism, accept the recommendations of the World Bank and are guided by the demi-gods of the capitalist sphere whose prescription for prosperity are faithfully pledged to follow. Ghanashyam Bhushal, of Prime Minister KP Oli’s Nepal Communist Party, regrets, ‘The Nepal Communist Party is pathetically functioning like a federation of factions.’
BP Koirala and Lenin became symbols of changes they were not identified with or fought for. The Nepali Congress is anything but socialist; the UML is anything but Marxist or Leninist; while the Maoists are anything but Maoist. They all endorse World Bank directives without question or public statement and pledge commitment to political pluralism. Former Maoist stalwart Baburam Bhattarai aptly offered ‘unsolicited advice’ to Oli during the World Economic Forum meet in Davos in January: ‘Tell the world you will discard the worn out banner of ‘communist’, at the earliest opportune moment and practice participatory democracy, rule of law, stem anti-corruption measures and undo hurdles to doing business. Contrary tactics won’t help!’
Narayan Man Bijukchhe, Chitra Bahadur KC, Mohan Baidya and Netra Bikram Chand ‘Biplav’ all reject the Nepal Communist Party as a black sheep in communist garb practising the worst of capitalism and pursuing rightist agendas with gay abandon. Bijukchhe is furious: ‘The Nepal Communist Party has criminally compromised communists.’ Chitra Bahadur KC, chair of Rastriya Jana Jagaran, dismisses the Nepal Communist Party as ‘not a communist party, it is cultivating misinformation’.
Former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and KP Oli are at loggerheads over the Nepal Communist Party’s structure. Lenin and Mao are like calamities, though during their Unified Marxist Leninist party decades, the same names were held in high reverence. Pushpa Kamal Dahal invoked Maoism long after Mao died in 1976 and Beijing changed course to attain communism with Chinese characteristics which discreetly rejects Mao’s Great Leap Forward, after witnessing 20 million people starving to death.
Mao and Lenin are names hardly recalled these days. Even Marx rarely gets much mention. Political parties are defined by their ideals, not claims. Dahal dares to do deals with the devil for expediency while Oli seems assertive only to wilt under pressure and unwittingly justify his mentor Madan Bhandari’s assessment of him as engaging in ‘tall talk with a weak walk’. Today, we have a basically communist cabinet in all its fad and foibles, and on a disheartening display of how its leaders take voters through the garden path.
The Oli-and-Dahal-led Nepal Communist Party faces distinctly disquieting times, aggravated by intra-organisational fissures of increasing magnitude. Dahal is on the prowl for party leadership once the ailing Oli fades away. Accused of stashing away piles of money without identifiable sources, he has had to bear the brunt of scorn on posturing as a leader of the downtrodden. Disquieting comments are made against the former Maoist boss for leading a life of bourgeois-like luxury as his family and coterie are rollicking in a lifestyle far in excess of what it used to be prior to the ‘underground’ days during the so-called people’s war decade.
On the first day of Parliament’s winter session in December, Dahal claimed, ‘Work would have been on a war footing if we had a traditional communist government.’ This unmasked his faith in democracy, as traditional communism would denote the type of regimes the Soviet Union had in the first 70 years and Maoist China had in the 1950s through the 1960s and the mid-1970s. During his six-year dictatorship from 1918 to 1924, Vladimir Lenin presided over the mass killings of 300,000 people.
The Nepal Communist Party, roiled in the thick of intra-organisational fissures, has not delivered in action the promises made during the 2017 election campaign. Nepal Communist Party Standing Committee member Kiran Gurung advised his senior colleagues at a party meeting that they needed to steer the movement of prosperity rather than study Marxism. Some leaders were perturbed by the organisational statute that replaced the word ‘communist’ with ‘left’ and dropped ‘revolution’ for ‘democratic movement’.
In 1991, after the communist party won a respectable number of seats to emerge as the main opposition in Parliament, an American news magazine carried his interview headlined, ‘In Nepal, Marx lives’. Marx would have been baffled by the sight and experience of a dispensation in Nepal swearing by his philosophy. Madan Bhandari himself might have rued bitterly. Marketing Marx has paid them off well—so far. You can fool some people all the time, but not all the people all the time.
Exercise in expediency
As the nonagenarian former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger said, ‘Revolutions erupt when a variety of often different resentments merge to assault an unsuspecting regime. The broader the revolutionary coalition, the greater its ability to destroy existing patterns of authority. But the more sweeping the change, the more violence is needed to reconstruct authority, without which society will disintegrate. Reigns of terror are not an accident; they are inherent in the scope of revolution.’
Taking the liberal democratic prescription, the Maoists and the UML joined hands, and made it to the seat of power with a massive majority and popular votes on a scale not recorded previously by any party. Once disparaged and despised by the Nepali Congress as well as the UML, the Maoists want to be known for the decade-long death and destruction as an epoch-making event of national pride. The so-called Marxists in Nepal have blatantly marketed the Marxist mantra for a vote pile-up, but practise policies that in no way rhyme with it.
The Nepal Communist Party’s stitch-up is loosening the hold of the doubtful strength that was designed to bind them into unity. If power is the intent, doubts arise; and if ideology and principles are the force of the bind, permanence can acquire. Dahal in June said that Nepal’s communism is becoming a model for the world, and a topic of great interest as to what course it will take.
Dahal’s party continues to use the communism tag but has abandoned its letter and spirit. Bhattarai has had the honesty to give up the idea as being no longer relevant in the prevailing context of his perception of polity and quality governance. The Oli-Dahal combine has rendered Maoist agendas irrelevant. Without an economic foundation or support, political stability and popular aspirations remain an illusion in Nepal, ruled by one of the eight communist governments in the world.
Kharel is a former editor of The Rising Nepal.
Published: 04-06-2019 10:34