The 28 August election of Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) leader Baburam Bhattarai as the country’s new prime minister led to a flicker of hope among a populace increasingly pessimistic about the political atmosphere and stagnating peace process. Within days of his election, Prime Minister Bhattarai, now backed by Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal (aka ‘Prachanda’), who had earlier sought to sabotage Mr Bhattarai’s elevation, did take two significant steps related to the peace process. First, he symbolically handed over the keys of the weapons containers of all the 28 Maoist cantonments to an official committee (the ‘Special Committee’) formed to oversee the integration and rehabilitation of the combatants; and second, he issued a formal notice to the party cadres to return private properties seized by members of the party. These demands were primary conditions set by the country’s two other largest political parties, the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), to complete the process of integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants, which would allow work to proceed on drafting.
These moves met with stiff opposition from a faction within Prime Minister Bhattarai’s own party. This group of hardliners, led by senior Maoist leader Mohan Baidya (aka ‘Kiran’), termed the prime minister manoeuvres a ‘capitulation to regressive forces’, and vociferously demanded a meeting of the party’s Central Committee to deliberate the issue. The crucial meeting was expected to see fierce exchanges between the current configuration ‘hardliners’ and ‘moderates’. (As Himal goes to press, the meeting is scheduled for 30 September.)
Baidya was incarcerated in 2004-2006 in Siliguri jail in India and was not present when the Maoists took the decision to join open politics in the ‘Chunwang meeting’ of 2005, following a line advocated by Bhattarai. Baidya and Bhattarai had long been in a tactical alliance to counter Chairman Dahal, but this was broken after Dahal backed Bhattarai to become the prime minister. Now, Dahal and Bhattarai present themselves as moderates within the party, having joined hands, and together they command a comfortable majority in the Central Committee. The recent government moves are thus likely to be endorsed by a majority vote. Still, Baidya and his backers have launched a nationwide campaign, aiming to expose the ‘ideological deviations’ of Dahal and Bhattarai – holding programmes across the country to convince the Maoist cadres that the hardliners are the true revolutionaries, and that Dahal and Bhattarai have betrayed the ‘people’. Mohan Baidya recently spoke with Kathmandu-based journalist Post Bahadur Basnet; the following is an edited translation from the Nepali.
What is your stance in the current dispute within the UCPN (Maoist)?
Let me first clarify the party’s decision on the handing over of the [keys to the] weapons containers to the Special Committee. We held debates and discussion on the proposal tabled by the chairman, and decided to remove the part of the proposal that stated that the keys would be handed over to the Special Committee. We argued that without consensus on the modality for integration and moving the whole integration process forward, handing over the keys would amount to disarmament and humiliation for the party. But flouting the party’s decision, the keys were handed over to the Special Committee, so we registered a note of dissent.
Similarly, we have reservations regarding the four-point deal signed with the Madhes [southern plains]-based parties for their support to form the current government. In that deal, it was agreed that the constitution of an ‘inclusive democratic republic’ would be framed, but the party’s official policy is to adopt a constitution of ‘people’s federal democratic republic’. The deal also states that no one would be deprived of the right to property, which is against the party’s fundamental principle, which focuses on the issues of land tenants and peasants. Similarly, it has been agreed that 10,000 Madhesis would be recruited unit-wise into the Nepal Army; while we agree that the Madhesis should get space in the army, such demands are being made by other ethnic groups as well, and their demands should also be addressed simultaneously.
Another objectionable part of the agreement is that the government would ‘address the proposals of other countries’. This is very vague. What are the proposals of other countries that have not been addressed? We don’t have any such proposal from China or other countries. But we do have such proposals from India, which has demanded the stationing of air marshals at Nepal’s international airport, signing an extradition treaty, and keeping Indian Army personnel within Nepali territory. The four-point deal was struck with the Madhes-based parties without consulting us, and that is wrong.
How is the internal struggle in the party going now?
If the party is not uniform and consistent in its ideology, it will either split or become a united front. But I think our party is still revolutionary in character. We are going through intense class struggles in society with the political parties and various forces representing different classes. This social reality has reflected on our party, and hence the intense internal struggles inside the party. While there are many thoughts and tendencies in the party, it is wrong to suggest that the party is made up of those who are completely rightist, completely centrist and completely ultra-leftist. If so, the party would have already dissolved. In fact, we believe in the unity of opposites. Without such contradictions, communist parties become monolithic.
What is wrong with the peace process in Nepal?
We have arrived at this stage through compromises among all the political forces, but it seems we are now turning against each other. The Nepali Congress holds the view that adopting anything beyond the traditional parliamentary political system in the new constitution would be disastrous for the party, and is extremely afraid that the Maoists are seeking space to impose their own version of democracy. Meanwhile, the Maoists see that the Congress is trying to stick to the same old parliamentary system. This has led to a situation where we are suspicious of each other.
The best thing would be to make compromises by both sides. The Congress should not insist on adopting the same parliamentary system, and our party will also not push for the establishment of ‘new democracy’ [a Maoist concept referring to a combination of bourgeois-democratic revolution and socialist revolution]. The Maoists will be satisfied with ‘people’s democracy’ at this juncture. The crux of the problem is that the Congress sticks to the old parliamentary system. Similarly, the friends from the Nepali Congress insist on writing ‘pluralism’ into the constitution, but in fact the constitution is not the right place to write in your own philosophy. If they want to write pluralism in the constitution, we also insist on writing ‘dialectical materialism’.
You say you accept a competitive political system but not pluralism. Isn’t that contradictory?
Pluralism is a philosophical term that covers all the aspects of society, including human thinking and even nature; but a competitive political system is limited to the field of politics. While communists hold the view that the world is a unity of opposites, the pluralists, who also believe in struggle between opposites, don’t believe in their unity. Seen from the perspective of ‘historic materialism’, the world is monistic in nature. Pluralism is a worldview the communists don’t believe in, and there is no need to link it with the competitive political system and the constitution.
What was the goal of the ‘people’s war’ you launched in the spring of 1996, and what have you achieved?
In our analysis, Nepal is in the grip of semi-colonialism and semi-feudalism, which means that the Nepali people are being exploited by feudalism from inside and subjugated by imperialism and expansionism from without. So the main political purpose of the ‘protracted people’s war’ was to emancipate the people from both kinds of oppression and to establish ‘new democracy’. This is linked with our long-term goal: to establish ‘new democracy’ for now and then move on to socialism and finally to communism. This is what we envisioned while launching the ‘people’s war’ in 1996. With this vision in mind, we moved ahead and were able to create liberated zones and announce ‘people’s governments’. We had to make some compromises along the way and take a slightly different path: we decided to write a constitution through compromises and participate in competitive politics, while still charting our course to reach that goal. We have so far made some achievements, including republicanism, federalism and secularism, but we are yet to free the country from the clutches of domestic feudalism and foreign domination.
You have been advocating an armed urban insurrection to capture state power. Is this a continuation of the ‘people’s war’?
There are basically two models of revolution, that of Russia and that of China’s ‘protracted people’s war’. In China, there were vast swathes of rural hinterland that had no communication or transportation facilities; foreign investment was minimal and Chinese society was at a fairly primitive stage. The situation in Nepal is different, with development in information and communications technologies, and capitalism also changing its style of operation. Under such circumstances, the ‘protracted people’s war’ alone cannot be sufficient. So, we decided to create a new model by supplementing the ‘people’s war’ with an urban insurrection; we call this a ‘fusion model’.
When you tried to put the ‘urban insurrection’ approach into effect, in May 2010, it did not succeed. Don’t you think that such an insurrection is impossible now?
It is not that you can affect a revolution whenever you want; it is not a matter of subjectivity. But you go on making preparations for it. The people will rise up in revolt if they face oppression, atrocity and exploitation, and Nepal faces such problems. If we did not have exploitation, atrocity and oppression in Nepal, we would not have changes today such as republicanism, federalism and secularism.
The Nepal Army has remained intact; when you tried to change its leadership in 2008, you failed.
Let’s not go into this now, but what you say is true. When other spheres of society see changes, the sons and daughters of the ordinary people who are in the army and police will fight against oppression and atrocity. See the history of other countries, like Russia and China. In Russia, the army that was supposed to turn its guns against the communists in fact joined hands with them. In one way, the Nepal Army is intact, as you say, but in another way it is still the sons and daughters of the ordinary people. Things are not constant and unchallengeable.
Do you think you can sustain a communist regime in a world of globalisation and interdependence?
Of course, we may have difficulty for some time. But, it is also true that globalisation has led to the development of tremendously productive forces – it has connected people the world over and given a message that all people of the world are the same. Still, it is true that some countries and some ruling classes have capitalised on this process for the moment. There is globalisation of capital and culture, but we have to globalise the concerns of the people.
What is your assessment of the Maoist movement in Southasia?
They are fighting for their causes. The strategy of the ‘protracted people’s war’ is to engage in a constant fight against state power. During the insurgency, we had good relations with the Maoists in India and we held discussions regularly. [Naxalism] is ideologically a Maoist movement and it is quite natural for us to support them even now; but we don’t have any other nexus. Indian society is far more developed than Nepal’s, but it is also oppressed from the remnants of feudalism. The communist movement has weakened over the years, but it is also true that communist movements remain all over the world, in one form or the other. I have no worries about the bright future of the communist movements, in Southasia and all over the world.
Why are you always against the Indian establishment?
We want cordial relations with India and other countries. But the Indian establishment has continued its oppressive strategy in Nepal. All unfair treaties, including the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950, should be scrapped, border encroachments should be stopped and the Indian Army personnel stationed in Nepali territory should be removed. Both the Indian and Nepali people want relations based on equality, those consistent with the consciousness of the people of the 21st century.
Can’t we change society without violence?
We don’t want violence, as far as possible. But history has indisputably proven that society cannot be changed without violence. The Congress criticises us for embracing violence for social change, but did it not raise arms in 1950 against the Rana regime? Is it not true that the Congress and the UML raised arms during the Panchayat regime?
Don’t you think Mohandas Gandhi proved that non-violent methods work?
But Indian society did not change as it was supposed to. And you should not forget that there were also the likes of Bhagat Singh, who had used violence for the same purpose. The US also raised arms to fight British imperialism for its independence. The use of violence, theoretically speaking, is necessary for social change. What we communists want is an end to violence through the use violence, and an end to class through class struggles. It is to create a society that is devoid of classes, violence and oppression. Violence is a compulsion. There can be exceptions, but exceptions don’t make laws.