Left Ideological Vacuity
Dr. Narad Bharadwaj
As the Communist Party of Nepal - UML and the Communist Party of Nepal –Maoist Centre (MC) make a last-ditch effort to workout a workable mechanism to formalise unification, political analyst appear keen to figure out the theoretical underpinning of the proposed union. The leaders of both the parties express confidence about the inevitability of the merger of the largest two left organisations. But there is growing curiosity among the left intellectuals about how the sticking theoretical points are being dealt with in the unification process.
Sceptics within and outside of the two largest leftist parties view the on-goingprocess of unification as an impossible political stunt which will fall through in due course while the optimists,this scribe included, say that the unification effort is a historical necessity but it should be accomplished within the theoretical and philosophicalpurview of Marxism. The purpose of this article is,therefore,to draw attention to whether the theoretical or practical political considerations have been given due space inthe dynamics of the on-going unification process between the two left forces.
The question of unity within the communist movement arouses considerable interest among various strata of society for reason of the existence of a wide mass following of the movement. There are always good intentions and best wishes from the people for unity of the communist parties. However, the communist groups have continued to proliferate instead of coalescingtogether in fulfilment of the expectations of the left party workers, supporters and sympathisers.
The Communist Party of Nepal split for the first time in its Third National Congress of the party in 1963. Ever since, the left movement has never attained the level of organisational unity capable of forming a single communist party in Nepal. The first serious effort for theoretical and organisational unity was started by the Jhapa movement in 1974 forming a national level left organisation called the CPN(ML)in 1978. This party has remained in the mainstream of the communist movement through all the political movements launched for the restoration of multiparty democracy in 1990 and the establishment of federal republican system in 2006-7. Despite the efforts for unification, smaller splinter groups have remained there basking in the glory of their own independent existence.
The process of organisational unification, started by the Jhapa Movement, succeeded unifying many communist groups. However, it suffered amajor setback when some smaller communist groupings coalesced to form CPN- Maoist and launched a ten-year long insurgency in 1996 under the controversial philosophical guideline of what they called Maoism. The conflagration of armed struggle they ignited razed for a decade, weakening the unification drive and threatening further fragmentation of the communist movement. At one point of insurgency, the UML and the CPN(Maoist) had parallel power bases and were struggling to snatch the political turfs from each other.
The failure of the Maoist insurgency to capture power through armed insurgency and the absence of decisive polarisation of otherleftist factions to its side, however, compelled it to sign a comprehensive peace agreement on 21 November 2006 and embrace the peace process. During the eight years of peace process and the last two years of transition after the proclamation of the constitution, the CPN-Maoist has greatly weakened and the UMLhas acquired an unprecedented support base because of its strong nationalist posture and its vision for bringing stability prosperity in the country.
The poor performance by the Maoist Centre in the local election was a serious jolt for it to contemplate unity with UML. In this context, the UML and Maoist Centre announced their decision of party unification and electoral alliance on 3 October 2017. It was a historic turn in the communist movement in Nepal. People,especially the supporters and sympathisers of the communist movement, gave a rousing response by voting the left alliance to a sweeping electoral victory.
The people are eagerly following the series of on-goingdialogues at the top leadership level and the organisational work ofthe coordination group formed to sort out the issue of organisational unity. The entire party organisations of both the parties are steeped in a dialogical environment.But nosignificant breakthrough has been made yet. Unity within communist parties is based on organisational, ideological, political and practical matters.Sometimes unity is guided by all the three factors. At others, only one or two happen to be playing a part in the unity of the parties.
In the case of the UML and MC,unity in organisational and practical issues appears to bulk large in the unity process. So far, none of the two parties going for unity have raised any ideological issues in relation to the unification dialogue going on at different levels. From the surface, the two parties preparing themselves for unity come from divergent schools of thought. The UML comes from the ideological school of People’s Multiparty Democracy. In the past, this party has refused unification with smaller communist groupings at the cost of discarding this principle.
The MC, on the other side, has been embracing Maoism as its ideological guideline.Will the two parties discard their ideological banners ferociously defended so far and adopt something different to ensure their organisational unity?Organisational and practical issues are not so difficult to be sorted out. A meeting point may be found to adjust personal and group concerns. But ideological and organisational issues are not that easy.Despite difficult path ahead while pursuing the objective of unity, the top leadership of both the parties appear confident about the feasibility of unification. But the ordinary people are at a loss as to what will be the new ideological basis for the unity of the two largest left parties.
In this context, it will be better for the largest left political parties to achieve unity on the basis of well-defined ideological guidelines. If they seek unity on the plinth of the widest available ideological and pragmatic base, theirunity will be durable. The unity based on consensusover the ideological issues will lend clarity and proper direction in leading the country to stabilityprosperity.
For the two parties to get united, formulation of aconsensus guiding principle of unity is indispensable. If they are able to forge the understanding to find common position concerning a defiedguideline, it will be easier for them to convince the rank and file of theparty about the legitimacy and sustainability of the unity. The two left parties appear all geared towards setting sail into an uncharted ocean of experimental unity. If they are not equipped with compatible Marxian philosophical standpoint to define the future course of action, they might be compelled to take recourse to eclectic utilitarianism to compensate for ideological vacuity that they may confront in the future.