The seventh UCPN (Maoist) General Convention has come to a close. The Maoist party has, through the Convention, opted for the path of peace and constitution, alongside an ‘economic revolution’. Among the few political analysts who have carefully studied the papers presented at the Convention is Shyam Shrestha, former editor of the left-leaning Mulyankan Monthly for 15 years. Originally a member of the Nepal Communist Party (Unity Centre), Shrestha left the party when it adopted a strategy of ‘People’s War’ under the leadership of Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’. The Post’s Bidushi Dhungel spoke with Shrestha about the new path of the of the Maoists and their differences with the other major Communist party—the CPN (UML). Excerpts:
The UCPN (Maoist) General Convention endorsed the line of peace and constitution. To what extent do you see this as a genuine commitment?
If it were just political strategy, it wouldn’t have been passed through the General Convention. Nepal’s capitalist people’s revolution cannot be complete until a new constitution is promulgated. And as the road to communism will only open up once the constitution is drafted, the Maoists have chosen to take the line of peace and constitution as a first priority.
That is not just a clever political tactic but the truth. In that sense, this is probably the first time that the Maoists haven’t double-spoken and have come clean about their intentions. In the past, they used to talk about a people’s revolt alongside the peace and constitution aspect but now they seem to be clear.
Can you explain how the peace and constitution process falls in line with the ‘capitalist people’s revolution’?
According to the party, Nepal’s main task is to complete and institutionalise the capitalist people’s revolution. They say that they have completed the political revolution—the monarchy fell, Nepal became a republic and federal. All of this needs to be institutionalised through the drafting of a new constitution before the capitalist revolution can be completed. The political revolution will be complete after the new constitution is written and promulgated. But the political revolution cannot really be completed without an economic revolution.
What does an economic revolution entail?
That means economic growth, the growth of capitalism or rather, the growth of national capitalism. The growth of the industrial sector, energy etc is all included. Furthermore, the party has brought forth the idea of cooperatives in agriculture. As opposed to how agriculture works today, where private ownership on a small scale is the norm, the party wants to bring forth the idea of mass cooperatives. That, according to the party, would increase production as these cooperative would be larger and more productive. The party would also be centred on these ideals as well as the government.
There was also talk at the Convention of reviving party structures from during
the insurgency. Could you explain this?
the insurgency. Could you explain this?
Maoist documents don’t speak of reviving governance structures. It doesn’t make sense either, since they are already in government. But what I understand by reviving structures is that when the Maoists were in the midst of an insurgency, for the sake of economic growth, the party had established communes of various sorts. At the time they were really small, embryonic even. But now that the party is above ground, there is scope to take such efforts to a larger scale. Communes can also be formed by the state—as in Switzerland.
Is this being done to give party cadres something to do?
Since the end of the conflict, the party has a mass cadre base that has little to do. They only know how to hold guns. But by reviving various war-time structures, the party will teach them to hold spades so they can be productive. The party was unable to give cadres and former fighters any work and this commune idea at least gives them something to do. The fact that they have nothing to do is part of the reason for why cadres and fighters are so frustrated.
Some allege that party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s paper, presented at the Convention, exemplifies that the Maoist party is going down the same path as the CPN-UML. What do you make of this?
In many ways, the Maoist party has moved even beyond the doings of the UML. Once upon a time, the UML had welcomed people like Satya Man Lama and Bhim Prasad Gauchan, both of whom the party had called reactionary, into the party to
increase its base. The Maoists have incorporated ten times more people that they would call ‘reactionary’ in a similar spirit to increase the party base. These include the selfish, sinners, criminals and the corrupt (lobi, paapi, aparadhi, bhrasta). If it took the UML around 15 years to do this, the Maoists managed it in less than five. So it’s not just following in the steps of the UML, but rather going beyond. The other issue is the lifestyle of leaders, which was brought up by cadres at the Convention. The Maoist leaders’ lifestyles are beyond the lifestyles of their UML counterparts insofar as luxury is concerned.
So where are the differences?
The UML never had programmes to develop production, create communes, cooperatives and a socialist society. Had they done that, they would have been incredibly popular. Only very recently, towards Bharat Mohan Adhikari’s time two years ago, did they introduce the idea of cooperatives. As a result of not having anything to do in the villages, the UML lost many of its cadres who left for the Gulf as migrant Preemptively, the Maoists have begun this much earlier and in far more comprehensive manner. But one of the biggest drawbacks of the Maoist plan is that it doesn’t touch on land and private property, which is integral to increasing production. Aside from vaguely mentioning the end to feudalism though scientific land reform, it says nothing more. For a communist party, that is not becoming. In that sense, the UML has actually mentioned more about reform, ownership and land relationships. As for the Maoist proposal, all this talk of cooperative formation is like making a house with no foundation.
The Chairman had also mentioned that there should be a referendum on issues of Nepal’s border. What does that mean?
It is very vague but if it means that before Nepal signs any agreement with a foreign country, the agreement should be taken up as referendum, then that’s not a cause for concern. In fact, in countries like Switzerland, that is the norm. However, it is unclear what is being said. For a party of such high standing, it is irresponsible to make such vague remarks on a sensitive issue. If it means that the border issue itself will be finalised by a referendum, then that is quite inappropriate.
Leaving the Convention aside, there is talk of making the chief justice the prime minister of a neutral government to oversee elections. Is that a good idea?
By bringing up the proposition, the Maoists are clarifying three things: the Maoists want CA elections, they want free and fair elections, and finally, that the Maoists will go to any ends to end the deadlock. Practically, I don’t think it is possible to make the Chief Justice PM.
What’s the best way out of the current impasse?
There are three ways to end the deadlock: if the parties don’t want to reinstate the CA, then it can reinstate the House of Representatives to unlock all deadlocks to amend the Interim Constitution. Then, a constitutional government can be formed and vacant posts at the Supreme Court filled. The other option is that the Election Commission can untangle knots. The third option is to go for third-party leadership or a neutral government. The best option would be to reinstate the House to manage legal and constitutional hurdles and simultaneously appoint a neutral government as recommended by the NC and UML (since the Maoists now look flexible) and form a government to hold elections.
Posted on: 2013-02-11 09:37