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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Future of Nepali communists: through the lens of upcoming polls

By Subhas lamichhane

 In face of repeated betrayals by the self-proclaimed communist parties of Nepal, the question of where will they stand in the upcoming elections is worth pondering.

Ours is the part of world where people are easily swayed by communism. No wonder, no other ideology appeals to the youths left out in the cold as do the red letters of communism. The abject poverty and neglect with which our ‘working class’ is afflicted works as a perfect recipe for the communist parties (CPs) to drag them to their folds. So, it’s not altogether surprising that we have witnessed the phenomenal rise of hotheaded revolutionary parties in our recent political history. It’s partly because of the fact that projecting oneself as the messiah of the oppressed lot requires no more than distributing false hopes of ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ and ‘a utopian society free of all injustices’. The ‘red books’ and the ‘great quotes’ are so designed as to make those hungry and half-clad hapless men completely indoctrinated so that from then onwards, communism becomes their only religion and the party their only savior. It thus comes as no secret that what makes this country’s people underprivileged is also what makes them so vulnerable to communist appeals: the feudal landscape.

However, as I write, I sense in the new generation an allergy toward the ‘communist’ word itself. While the young turks are impatient for a complete overhaul of the system, there is a deep resentment and distrust towards the current breed of political parties, even more so towards the communists. It’s easy to see why. When the supposed architect of one’s destiny hoodwinks at a scale never imagined before, the resulting frustration gets expressed in the form of hatred. This brings us to the fact that; while little has changed in the dismal socio-economic status of the have-nots, the much-needed fuel for the survival of our type of communist parties (CPs); the charm and charisma they possessed has become a ‘once upon a time’ story.

Just until a year back, the Nepali CPs were enjoying a widespread ‘popular mandate’ as evident in the power equation within the now-dissolved CA. Not that the CPs will be altogether swept away in the next CA polls (if ever they occur, of course), but the precious faith people had reposed in them has altogether faded away. Given that the non-CPs are no better, the sizable population is currently caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Ultimately, the only feasible option remains ‘choosing the bad from the worst’, which in turn makes it hard to speculate on the chances of how the ‘comrades’ will fare in the upcoming elections. But, one thing is for sure, the ‘working class’ is utterly disenchanted with its ‘vanguard’; and whatever ‘Garibkaa din aaye’ type hope the last CA election had kindled have been doused. Who knows, the apologetic mass may once again choose to vote these inept communists to power, but take it, that precious ‘enthusiasm factor’ has long been lost. Going by the reports, it is proving to be a gargantuan task for ‘Baidya & Co.’(chairman of so called neo-revolutionary splinter Maoist party of Nepal) to recruit militias, let alone sustain the armed struggle, which they are reportedly mulling over. This dwindling communist base in the soil as fertile as ours may have come as a respite for elites, but the gravity of the matter deserves serious discussions.

To start with, I base my argument on the premise that - none of our so-called CPs are concerned with the core ideas of Marxism and hence are not communists in their conducts.  Even the so-called ‘pure communists’ within breakaway Baidya faction are interested not in the ideology and the ‘proletariat’, but in a proxy war with their mother party over power, position and prestige. While it goes without saying that UML has long been a flock of crows that have lost their way in the fog, the UCPN (Maoist) having abandoned the ‘glorious Janayuddha’ (people’s war) is in a even more glorious ‘Dhanayuddha’ (fight for wealth) drive. Meanwhile, Comrade Bijukche aka Rohit may well be resisting the temptations of Singha Durbar till date, but admit I must that I’m unaware of any substantial contribution his party, being confined to the smallest district, has made in the lives of the ‘workers and peasants’ at large . Regarding scores of other splinter CPs, do they really need a mention in the first place?

It’s interesting to note that the largest party in the erstwhile CA, UCPN (Maoist), had taken its root in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, when all other communist movements across the globe were either collapsing or had been defensive at best. Ironically, once it entered the political mainstream after fighting a decade-long civil war, it itself got so deeply immersed in the parliamentary shenanigans that it emerged out of this quicksand a completely changed party. For the top guns and the ‘Khaaobaadis’ within, this degeneration meant a ‘great leap forward’, but for the rank and file, nothing could be more heart-wrenching than to watch this tragic scene: the ‘dear party’ getting transformed by the system, instead of ‘transforming the system’ itself.  

Of course, in a welcome step, UCPN (M) has taken great strides in the ideological front since its inception some two decades back. It is no longer a traditional dogmatic CP that believes in state capture through the barrel of a gun. It has agreed to abide by the basic tenets of democracy, and has shown that a party can be ‘progressive and people-oriented’ (at least in theory) by being democratic at the same time. But, the tragedy starts herein, when this ‘progressive and people-oriented’ approach gets locked in the narrow confines of its documents. While in theory it remains a pragmatic CP; in conduct, it is nowhere near socialism, let alone communism. The lifestyle of leaders is lavish, thinking style borders on feudalism and working style is near authoritarian. The whims and caprices of a select few govern the party. No doubt, this is a malady afflicting not only the UCPN (M), but every single party in Nepal. The gap between what they preach in the election manifesto and how they behave while in power is too wide. Unless they sincerely try to bridge this, it’s impossible for them to regain the lost faith.

Take for example, the BRB government’s move to evict the landless people from their makeshift homes. Or take the series of unnatural price hikes in essential daily commodities that he presided. Or take his open display of nepotism during various government institutions. That’s how he chose to antagonize his constituencies practically in sharp contrast to his pious written or spoken words. And that’s how his party degenerated in the hands of elites who were bent on stopping the wave of change. It still baffles me to see how soon a ‘people’s party’ that had shed blood to end inequality and injustices of all sorts forgot its own history and started hobnobbing with its ‘class enemies’.

Personally, I feel that socialism is the only way forward for Nepal. But the problem is: even the communists are not ready for it. They are overtly socialists, but in theory alone. Until and unless these CPs are ready to translate their socialist ritualistic rhetoric into actions, their exposure as ‘false communists/socialists’ will continue to erode their fertile base. And a day will come when the disgruntled youths will stop being their cannon fodders forecasting something ominous for the future of communism. If however, our CPs can learn from their history and that of elsewhere, China and Russia in particular, and then move ahead in the path of rapid socio-economic growth accordingly, their future is not so bleak after all.

Raised in the plains of Dang in the mid-western Nepal,Subhas Lamicchhane completed his schooling from the far-western Mahendranagar. Currently, he is doing his MBBS final year in UCMS, Bhairahawa. He loves reading works of fiction and non-fiction alike, in addition to travelling. He is also an avid blogger and regularly posts in his  personal blog HIDE N SEEK.)

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