UML-Maoist Centre Unification Dilemma Over Ideological Appellation
Ritu Raj Subedi
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” wrote William Shakespeare. But this Shakespearean dictum hardly applies to the communists, who insist on strong theoretical terms to define their ideology, policy and actions. They contest over particular words and phraseology that represent their isms and guiding principles. Of course, communists are rich in the ideological and philosophical contents but their obsession for jargons has caused severe disputes and eventual splits. This tendency has not only mystified their ideas and goals among the masses but, to some extent, also alienated them from their core constituency that has not much penchant for theoretical debate but is concerned about its immediate needs and priorities.
Dispute over PMD
The constituents of Left Alliance – CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre, which are undergoing the pangs of unification process at the moment, have seemingly faced a glitch over the ideological appellation. The two sides will probably be ready to name their unified party as Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) but they are likely to clash over the title of their common ideology. Interestingly, the ideological dispute has raged between the UML stalwarts with the Maoist Centre’s leaders showing little interest in it. The row came to the fore after UML deputy general secretary Ghanshyam Bhusal declared that the chapters of People’s Multiparty Democracy (PMD) of UML and 21st Century Democracy of MC were over with the promulgation of new republican and federal statute and the conclusion of three-tier elections.
Bhusal is considered one of the ideologues within the party but his announcement of the irrelevance of PMD has stunned the party members from top to bottom. The party has accepted the PMD as the guiding principle and original theory of revolution since its sixth convention in 2054 BS. The entire party had recognised it as principle, programme, tactic and strategy to engineer the New Democracy Revolution based on the Nepali context. The party’s 7th, 8th and 9th conventions had enriched its contents and continually embraced as the guiding thought. The 9th convention concluded that the Janaandolan II was accomplished on the theoretical basis of PMD that calls for peaceful struggle for the political, social and economic transformation. The PMD has been credited for opening the door for the socialist reconstruction following the successful political movements.
Propounded by late Madan Bhandari, PMD had given a new lease of life to the moribund communist movement in early 90s. After the collapse of Soviet Union and its satellite socialist states in Eastern Europe, the communists were not only in the defensive but they saw no future in those nations if they carried on Marxism-Leninism under the rubric of communist parties. But Bhandari’s creative use of Marxism saved Nepali communists from their imminent collapse. He democratized it by incorporating the concept of multiparty in the theoretical garb of Marxism. He rediscovered and applied the notion of ‘dialectic’ based on Nepal’s socio-economic and political reality.
Dialectic ‘refers to various methods of reasoning and discussion in order to discover the truth.’ It is also ‘an enquiry into metaphysical contradictions and their solution.’ Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus was the first to coin the term and then modern philosophers - Kant, Hegel, Marx and Engels – interpreted and applied it in specific historical conditions. Dialectic consists of three stages - thesis, antithesis and synthesis – to arrive at a conclusion. This approach is the key to resolving political and economic discords besetting the society. Bhandari has recognised ideological diversity and pluralism, while rejecting the notion that a single communist party should rule a country by negating other social and political forces. He was of the view that the communist parties should prove their superiority and ability through competition with bourgeois parties. He stated that the idea of ‘multiparty competition’ is not a prerogative of the capitalist class. The communists should embrace it as a political instrument to end economic inequality, social discrimination and industrial exploitation at the hands of compradors, capitalists and imperialists.
The PMD has two critical components – principle/ideology and programmes. PMD evolved based on unique historical experiences, political struggles and cultural and social values of the Nepali society. It has derived theoretical insights from Marxism-Leninism. The adoption of multiparty system is guided by the tradition of the incessant struggle of Nepalis against the autocratic Rana and Panchayat rules. It embodies the democratic spirit of the Nepali people. It has become undisputed ideology of the party that has bound its leaders and functionaries for common cause and goals. Ideology never dies but programmes are subject to constant changes and modifications. So announcing the demise of PMD is like repeating Francis Fukuyama’s follies. American political scientist Fukuyama had declared the ‘end of history’ following the collapse of communism in former USSR and Eastern Europe. His assessment was debunked by the cyclic crises of capitalism.
Unlike the Maoist Centre’s ‘21st Century Democracy’, the PMD has attained wider acceptance. Today, the Maoist Centre has finally treaded that path shown by PMD. It realised the limits of armed struggle that it launched under the banner of ‘Prachandapath’. The decade-long violent armed conflict had turned the Nepali society upside down. It invoked primordial ethnic sentiments, causing social and cultural cleavages. The 2006 April Uprising is a testimony to the fact that bigger changes are possible through peaceful means. This is the ideological gist of PMD.
Besides, the Maoist Centre’s ‘21st Century Democracy’ appears to be time sensitive, not eternal and universal. It has not become a cohesive ideology to integrate and unite the party leaders and cadres hailing from diverse backgrounds. The MC is still a front comprising the divergent factions of incongruous thoughts – ethno-centric identity politics, regionalism, parliamentary politics, and hardliner left. The embrace of PMD will assimilate them into a coherent force. Whatever the name, the unified party of UML and MC will in essence practice PMD. Therefore, it is not wise to waste time by disputing over ideology and its designation. Moreover, it will be even more harmful if the leaders of either party try to put ideological garb over their vested interest and greed for post and position.