Nepal’s Maoists need to recharge a genuine popular movement to resolve the nation’s political crisis

The shelf life of democracy in Nepal is turning out to be rather short. And, instead of adhering to its credo of ‘uninterrupted revolution’, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) has become a party to this brutal interruption of democracy.

The dissolution of the Constituent Assembly (CA), after it failed to give the fledgling republic a Constitution in spite of innumerable extensions, has undoubtedly precipitated a constitutional crisis. To see the situation merely in those terms would, however, amount to barely scratching the surface. What, on the face of it, is an intractable constitutional deadlock is at its heart a political calamity.
The UCPN-M-led government may believe that in deciding to call for fresh elections to institute a new CA, it has done the best for democracy. But no number of elections will yield the missing consensus for a socially-cohesive Nepal. Unless the prevailing hegemony of competitive identity politics is shattered, the Maoist demand for a strong federalist constitution will remain a pipe dream.

UCPN-M chairman Prachanda’s statement that his party would fight polls on the plank of identity-based federalism and would win two-thirds majority in the new CA is a delusion of grandeur. It reveals how the Maoists have come to vest complete faith in the electoral process as if it were the demi-urge of democracy in Nepal.

In that context, the responsibility for the current crisis should be the Maoists’ burden. And that, contrary to the wisdom of a co-opted commentariat, is not because the UCPN-M has failed to sufficiently accommodate the concerns of such reactionary political forces as the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist-Leninist. Instead, it is because it has been too accommodating.

It would, however, be historically misplaced to overstate this criticism. After all, it was the concerted initiative of the Maoists to democratise Nepal’s emergent republican political process that compelled the NC-led seven-party alliance to concede to their demand for drawing up a new social contract.

This led to the suspension ofthe decade-long civil war, the abolition of monarchy and the formation of the CA through popular suffrage.

Sourece: ET Bureau

Such commitment of the Maoists stemmed from the objective basis of their politics in the demands of the oppressed sections of Nepali society for democratisation. But dominant identities will find the democratic aspirations of oppressed identities unacceptable as long as struggles between the dominated and the dominant are not activated within those identities too. It is only then the oppressed identities and the subalternised sections within dominant identities can come together in their common struggle for the abolition of the general condition of domination.

The UCPN-M, so far, has given no sign that it has begun grasping its demand for a constitutionally-ordained federal polity in those terms. The fatal flaw of the Maoist leadership on that score had become evident in 2005-06 itself when the party had begun diverting its political resources from the People’s War to the anti-monarchy Jan Andolan in the cities.

The Jan Andolan was constituted through an aggregation of different strata of Nepali society against disparate forms of domination inflicted on them by their common adversary: the monarchy. The movement, however, left the relationships of domination and competition among its constituents intact. The Maoist participation in that movement should have been based on a critique of the concrete forms in which the movement engendered social relations of hierarchy even as the party fought the common battle against the monarchy without loss of zeal. The Maoists should have started revolution within a revolution.

Instead, they assumed that questioning the segmentations internal to the movement would weaken it. This was also prompted by their desire to quickly seize state power. They probably lost the nerve to undertake the arduous odyssey needed for making such seizure contingent on altering the social structure from which the oppressive state-formation of Nepal emanates. The Maoists should have worked towards sustaining the movement on the street through an independent working-class initiative. Instead, the UCPN-M-led government has, ever since, curbed the activities of such agencies of popular movement as the Young Communist League at New Delhi’s command. It has also dissolved the various organs of people’s power it had developed.

Prachanda, during his premiership, even went so far as to return the land seized from landowners during the People’s War. The protection India purportedly provides to Nepal’s republican ‘balance of power’ amounts to New Delhi acting as the executive of Nepal’s Marwari capitalists and rich peasants from its Terai – connected to the Indian mainland through kinship ties – to safeguard their ill-gotten socioeconomic power.

Therefore, unless a radical Left movement here is able to gather enough mass to shatter the dominant nationalist consensus from which India’s ruling class derives the legitimacy to indulge in such imperialistic meddling, the future of radical democracy in Nepal is damned.

This is not meant to exculpate the Nepali Maoists. They must mend their ways. Else, the best they will be able to deliver is a messed-up passiverevolution.


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