UML-Maoist Centre Unity Generates Left Momentum
Ritu Raj Subedi
Nepal’s two largest communist parties gave the world a big surprise. The ruling CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre have been united, creating the biggest communist party in South Asia and third largest one in Asia. The formation of the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) will be the unique experiment of communism when it had lost much of its fire decades ago. Nepali communists showed the world how Marxism can be applied in particular context without shedding its core values and principles. Communism can rise to power through peaceful means – competitive electoral system, the very idea Karl Marx had envisioned towards his later phase of life.
The formation of Nepal’s strongest communist party coincided with some historic moments. May 17, the day when they announced their landmark unification, was the memorial day of charismatic late leader Madan Bhandari, who is credited for democratising Nepali communist movement with his concept of ‘Peoples’ multiparty democracy’, the UML’s guiding principle. Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, one of the two chairs of the new party, often rues that he could not meet late Bhandari as the later was mysteriously killed in a jeep accident before their scheduled meeting. Now he offered respect to Bhandari by choosing his memorial day for the historic left unity.
Likewise, the unification occurred at a time when the communists all over the world are observing Marx’s 200th birth anniversary amidst variety of programmes. In his famous interview to US magazine, Newsweek, late Bhandari had said: “Nepal, where Karl Marx Lives.” Now the Nepali left have the onus to prove that Marx really lives in Nepal and his radical ideology enables them to steer the nation towards the path of stability, prosperity and equality.
Established in 1949, the CPN had begun to split 13 years after it was founded. This unification seeks to restore original glory and ideal of CPN. The unified party has espoused the ‘people’s democracy’ as a synthesis of UML’s ‘people’s multiparty democracy,’ and Maoist Centre’s ‘21st century democracy’ to usher the country into socialist reconstruction. It has adopted ‘Sun’ as the poll symbol. According to its 6-point Unification Joint Declaration, the CPN’s guiding thought is Marxism-Leninism with democratic centralism and collective leadership.
Based on this theoretical ground, the CPN has announced that it will establish its superiority through the peaceful competition and commit to the supremacy of constitution, rule of law, independence judiciary, guarantee of human and fundamental rights, principle of separation of powers, pluralistic open society, periodic election, the government run by elected representatives and constitutional arrangement of the opposition. It pledges to bring about socio-economic transformation to consolidate nationalism and democracy and ensure social justice and dignity of the people. The embrace of these ideas clearly shows that the CPN is closer to social democracy than to the classical Marxism. The soft school of Marxism, developed by German socialist thinkers such Karl Kautsky and Edward Bernstein, has inspired it much in order to compete with the corporate-led capitalism in the 21st century.
The unification of two left parties appeared to be a highly improbable project. They represented opposite schooling but there was similarity in their initial political journey. Both had adopted a violent path. When the UML had launched ‘beheading’ of local barons in Jhapa in east Nepal in the early 70s, the would-be Maoist leaders, who started the ‘people’s war’ in mid-90s had condemned the Jhapa revolt. The violent Maoist campaign began at a time the UML was already transformed into a civilian modest communist party. The UML leaders were on the frontline to denounce the ruthless Maoist insurgency. And KP Oli, who was vocal against the ‘Maoist atrocities’, had also not supported the idea of murdering individuals by the then Jhapa district committee under the Koshi Provincial Committee of the CPN.
It is an irony of history that Oli the other day paid tribute to the martyrs who had laid down their lives during the ‘people’s war’. Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda,’ visited each other’s headquarters and assumed office. Ex-Maoist cadres greeted Oli with thundering applause at Parisdanda while Prachanda set foot in Dhumbarai amidst enthusiasm and cheers. These are the odd scenes that dealt surprises and shocks to their cadres as well as their opponents. Nonetheless, the unification has brought a tectonic shift in the power structure of national politics. In the first parliamentary elections in 1958, the CPN had secured just four seats but now it commands almost two-thirds in the federal parliament and absolute majority in six provinces and 403 local units out of 753. The CPN has 174 seats out of 275 in the House of Representatives. This has drastically weakened the country’s oldest democratic party, Nepal Congress, which has only 63 seats in the House and miserable position in provincial and local governments.
The unification has generated left momentum in the country with far-reaching implications on the domestic as well as foreign policy fronts. It has practically restored political stability and rekindled people’s hope for economic prosperity. The NC is likely to be forced to stay out of power for a long time in the coming days. The government can introduce bold political, constitutional and economic measures to fix myriad problems besetting the nation. For example, it recently succeeded to foil syndicate in the transportation sector. With a strong and stable government in place, the state’s sovereign power has been dramatically shored up. This has boosted its confidence to deal with foreign powers that have been taking advantage of the feeble position of the state. This will indeed enable the country to assert independence, right to self-determination and dignity.
Tread with caution
The CPN will also provide a shield to former Maoist rebels with strongman Oli as their leader. India and the West have been ‘blackmailing’ the Maoists over their insurgency era’s cases and using them to destabilise the country. Prime Minister Oli may find himself in an odd position when the international human rights regime vigorously pushes for transitional justice in the country. He must tread a tightrope in order to ensure that unity of new party remains intact and at the same time the spirit of transitional justice is not subdued.