SPEAKING FREELY Nepal's Maoists face ideological crisis
By Kamal Dev Bhattarai
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KATHMANDU - Nepal's United Communist Party of Nepal(Maoist), relegated to third position in last November's elections, is engaged in a serious internal debate over its future ideological outlook and organizational structure.
The party does not plan to deviate from the path of peace it adopted in 2005 after signing a 12-point understanding with mainstream political parties. However, its dream of drafting a communist-dominated constitution in the Constituent Assembly
(CA) is fading and it must respond.
The leadership of party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, aka Prachanda, is being questioned. The party is weak in both organizational strength and ideology. Senior leader Baburam Bhattarai is urging Prachanda to handover the leadership to a younger generation.
Party leaders say Prachanda, who led a 10-year long insurgency that claimed the lives of 15,000 people, has failed to keep the party united.
In May 2010, Prachanda waged an "urban revolt" with an aim of displacing the government led by Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) leader Madhav Kumar Nepal. The Maoists brought thousands of cadres from rural areas in the capital city Kathmandu to launch a protest but it was later withdrawn.
Former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai, the UCPN's key ideologue, has pressed Prachanda to adopt a peaceful stance. It wasn't until 2011 that Prachanda took his advice.
This brought Prachanda and Bhattarai closer to each other, but Prachanda's political guru, Mohan Baidya, felt isolated inside the party and formed a separate party in June 2012 - the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M).
Senior party leaders, including Bhattarai, have conceded that the party is in a serious ideological crisis. After adopting a peaceful path in 2006, the party abandoned the line of establishing a one-party communist regime with a "people's constitution". During the 10-year long insurgency the party had dreamed of establishing a regime like those in China and North Korea.
The Maoists made a public commitment to adapt to competitive politics, including adhering to democratic norms and values. The international community recognized them as a mainstream party.
The breakaway faction CPN-M has occupied the space of a radical communist force opposing the process of drafting a new democratic constitution through the CA, while the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist and Leninism (CPN-UML) has established itself as a moderate democratic communist force.
The Nepali Congress (NC), a centrist party, seeks a Western ministerial parliamentary model. Top UCPN (Maoist) leaders say they want to establish a separate ideology that is different from the CPN-Maoist, the CPN-UML and the NC.
Adding to the ongoing policy discussions, Maoist ideologue Baburam Bhattarai has floated a new concept of "participatory democracy" to ensure better representation of cadres within the party and the people in the government.
Bhattarai is saying that if this model of democracy is adopted, marginalized communities will get proper representation. The party has started deliberations to shape its ideology.
Prachanda in a new party document prepared after the November 19 election has again the raised the issue of "national independence" which means a symbolic protest against the "Indian interference" in Nepal's internal politics.
After the formation of Baburam Bhattarai-led government in 2011, the party had toned down anti-India policy. In his political document, however, Prachanda stated that party's soft stance towards India was one factor for party's defeat in the election.
According to leaders, the party will now adopt the cadre-based approach practiced during the insurgency period and revamp its organizational structure across the country. The party concludes that cadre-based nature of the party started eroding after it adopted a policy of receiving cadres from other parties.
The party had "a vanguard of thousands of full-time cadres who played a key role in strengthening the party's organization at the grassroots level" during the insurgency period. The cadre-base structures were dropped for a number of reasons, including the high cost to manage full-timers.
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say.Please click hereif you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.
Kamal Dev Bhattarai is a Kathmandu-based writer. He is closely following Nepal's peace and constitution writing process and Maoist party. He can be reached at [email protected]