The Maoist Movement On Terminal Decline?: Ritu Raj Subedi
A columnist writing an excellent piece in a weekly last week has aptly capped the rise and fall of the Maoist movement with three Nepali words - krambhanga (breach of continuity), mohabhanga (disillusion) and chharlanga (clear as crystal). The term krambhanga is cliché that always hangs on the lips of UCPN-M chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda. Wherever and whenever he gets a chance to address the public, he proudly avers that his party has successfully carried out krambhanga, a reference to ‘the people’s war’ that turned the Nepali society upside down. What actually did this war deliver to the country? Deaths, destructions and bitter social cleavages? Was it historic necessity?
Given the fact that there was greater scope of evolutionary changes through the peaceful democratic means as witnessed around the world, the Maoist violent movement was simply an unnecessary burden on the Nepalese society. One of the repeatedly claimed gains of the ruthless insurgency is ‘unprecedented level of consciousness’ that it brought among the Dalits, deprived and disadvantageous groups. Seen from the utilitarian point of view, are the achievements bigger compared to the loss of lives and properties the so-called 'people's war' caused? It is said that the violent campaign claimed lives of innocent people many times higher than that of unification of Nepal. Twenty years ago when the Maoist movement began, its crusaders tried to swim against the current of history. Two decades later they have found themselves at the end of their tether: the movement is thrown into total disarray with a series of splits and many of its supporters have become disillusioned with the motives of the leaders and destination of Maoist revolution.
The party that waged a guerrilla war against the state ironically saw its miraculous rise only when it laid down their arms and accepted the politics of ballot. It was at its apogee in the first Constituent Assembly (CA) election in 2008. Wisely or mistakenly, the voters had pinned their greater faith in the Maoists in the first CA polls, making it the largest party but it destroyed their trust and hope. What the blunder did they commit? It was their reluctance and inordinate delay in democratising the party and themselves. They were awfully slow to translate the basic values of democracy into practice despite agreeing them in principle. In the 21st century, no communist party has luxury to choose the path other than the course of social democracy. Faster the communist parties embrace the spirit of democracy, quicker they win the hearts of the people. There is an illusion, especially among some sections of communists that ‘democracy’ is bourgeois notion and the privilege of elites. But, in fact democracy is the biggest weapon of the poor, the ruled and the marginalised to advance their cause. Here is deserving view of Dr Thomas Meyer, a prominent social democrat and great interpreter of Marx’s books. He says: ‘In the Communist Manifesto, Marx has verbally/literally said that the first thing what the victorious proletariat should do is to introduce democracy because it is a rule of the people and through the people. And then socialists should use it to socialise the segments of production. He never says to do away with the rights of the people. He did not say to abolish democracy but to restore it to change the society.”
Madan Bhandari successfully transformed the then radical CPN-UML into a moderate left force but Prachanda miserably failed to do this. His inability and dilemma to convert his party into a true civilian and democratic force led to its electoral downfall. Even after joining the peace process, the Maoist leadership continues to confuse its cadres, selling them unrealistic and hollow promises. Ideological ambiguity combined with ethnic slogans alienated it from the masses that were fed up with militant nature and acts of its cadres. Its leadership continues to claim to be champion of proletariat class. But, this claim is not only paradoxical but also hypocritical. The top leaders and some favoured cadres became nouveau riche overnight while a majority of party workers have found themselves loitering on the streets or sweating in the deserts of Arab.
The entire Maoist movement has lost its political direction. It broke under the weights of bundle of contradictions. So, its series of splits and defections are not a matter of surprise. This is because its starting point was preposterously wrong in both the methods and goals. You reap what you sow. Violence, threat, anarchy, sabotage and extortion have been its viable instruments, which it is using to implement its poisoned ethnic agenda. Biplav faction of the Maoist party seeks to expand its base by capturing and distributing the gas-filled cylinders freely to the ravening customers. Biplav’s move to court the ultra-radical populism is not only untenable but also subjects to a dangerous blowback. The Matrika faction of Maoist party has developed an illicit nexus with a tainted Madhesi leader to revive one Madhes one province demand that is already dumped by the second CA polls. The Baidhya group is engaged in a survival tactic by trying to forge unity with Prachanda-led Maoist party that is itself reeling from despairs and disintegrations. The Maoist movement is passing not only through an acute phase of Mohabhanga but its strength, actions and fate are also getting chharlanga.
The parent –UCPN-Maoist- has woken up to the pernicious impacts of its ethnic identity agenda after its candidate forfeited his deposit in the recently held by-election in Baglung. Sensing that its terminal decline is inevitable if it continues to carry the divisive ethnic agenda, chair Prachanda pulled out of its recent general strike by ending its flirtation with hard-line ethnic and regional allies. Reports are that the party has landed itself on the negotiating table with a mood to compromise on the tricky federal issue. It is time to put the Maoist motive to the test. This requires that the ruling parties shed their hubris and demonstrate flexibility so as to create an enabling situation to end prolonged political stalemate and find common ground on the outstanding constitutional topics.