The Inner-Party Struggle in the UCPN(Maoist)

Dear Comrades,

The line struggle within the UCPN(Maoist) has become increasingly fierce in the last few days and I have really not taken time out to comment on it. Partly this is because I have been distracted by other posts which have been inspired by other blogs that I have been reading, but also because I don’t think a blow by blow account of the line-struggle is all that useful as much of what is reported about is a sliver and refraction from within a maze of mirrors and it is only when a series of actions occur can one see a logic to the seeming madness.

I also would like to state from the outset that I do not think that there are only three tendencies within the UCPN(Maoist), nor do I think that people simply fit into any given faction, and finally I do not think that it is simple in this current context to either see the UCPN(Maoist) as a whole or any given leader as a revisionist. I really would prefer to not see the line-struggle as some kind of theatrical production between characters that resemble sitcoms inasmuch that they get the shallow titles of ‘revolutionary’, ‘revisionist’ etc, but rather as people who are battle-hardened and intelligent  analyzing data and interpreting it differently, whilst recognizing the nastiness of inevitable political maneuvering. Indeed, the Baburam Bhattarai faction did not split despite the actions that have occurred and I think that the rumors of a Kiran split are equally bluster. I think that all sides in this recognize and respect one another as revolutionaries and realize that this is the method of unity-struggle-unity that they have always marveled at and which we around the world could learn from. Indeed, the fact that Baburam Bhattarai has even agreed to the strategy in recent days demonstrates a principled position of theoretical difference whilst unity in action.

The line-struggle has three major aspects to it: 1) theoretical; 2) organizational; and 3) personal. The theoretical aspects of the line-struggle is something that has gotten greater attention and pivots on two questions: 1) what is the principal contradiction in Nepal (this traditionally has been staked out as Kiran perceiving India as a primary threat, whilst Baburam Bhattarai has held it as a secondary threat – this position has been attacked as being pro-Indian by Prachanda recently but has a long history as well, and Prachanda vacillating between the two positions) and 2) whether the time is ripe for a people’s revolt and at what point should preparations for the revolt begin? This of course has been heavily discussed, however, it must be noted that the Baburam Bhattarai position has never been that the people’s revolt would not be necessary but that the peace process should be given more time to proceed and that peaceful struggle should be employed until the time is appropriate, whilst the Kiran position has been that the peace process has already met that point of saturation. Indeed, the fact that Baburam Bhattarai has agreed to the line of people’s revolt is itself as a demonstration of the willingness for political compromise

This of course immediately leads us to do with an interpretation of the  data relating to the organizational question: whether the organizational framework exists in both the countryside and urban centers for such a revolt to occur? And what role does the urban petit-bourgeoisie have to play in the urban revolt? This is also wrapped up with a series of inner-party democracy problems that have become more clear with the potential gag order on Baburam Bhattarai (and recognizing that there is a gag order on all CC members) and the need for the development of a formal process by which political differences  and disputes can be expressed properly. But also has to do with the role of the chairman in the Party and the powers invested in that office, and how power must flow more generally in the party. And the attempt to discipline Baburam Bhattarai by Prachanda which interestingly, although not surprisingly, was met by opposition by both Bhattarai and Kiran supporters alike. I do not think that we can simply reduce the math to 2 vs. 1 but rather, must accept a far more fluid situation.

Finally, there is the personal shit: the desire for more power in any given organization. I am not going to act like the UCPN(Maoist) is above this. However, I think like any organization all parties involved largely believe that the more power that they hold in their respective hands will result in the successful implementation of the common goal (although at times the goal may not be the same as well as was the case with Deng in China). Thus, there are organizational disputes that have to do with the allocation of organizational seats in the party to members of differing factions. This also has to do with the fact that there is an outstanding debate between Baburam Bhattarai and Prachanda from 2005 regarding Prachanda’s status in the party and the public attempts by Prachanda to retaliate through organizational and political means (the house arrest and suspension, this recent attempt to discipline Baburam Bhattarai etc). And a mistrust of Prachanda from several different sources within the Party due to allegations of ‘divide and rule’ tactics that accompany ideologically vacillation.

I don’t think that the Party will split, at least not at this time. But I could be proven wrong tomorrow. Let’s hope that the Party can resolve its issues and step closer to building a new communist state in Nepal.

Dahal for action on Bhattarai for spilling beans

KATHMANDU, Dec 29: Leaving aside the organizational and theoretical issues, the ongoing Maoist Standing Committee meeting has begun discussions on whether the party should take action against Vice-chairman Dr Baburam Bhattarai for spilling the party beans in the media.
Taking strong exception to Bhattarai´s recent interview to one of the major dailies, Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal asked for the opinions of party senior leaders on the issue and whether the party should take action against him.

“The way the party´s internal issues came out in the media is a matter of concern. So it is natural for the party to begin a debate on the issue,” said a Maoist Standing Committee member, requesting anonymity.

In the interview, Bhattarai had stated that it is still possible to conclude the peace process and constitution drafting and the party should genuinely push for these, adding that Dahal and Senior Vice-chairman Mohan Baidya no longer have faith in the current political process and wanted to break it off completely.

On Tuesday, the session for putting forward views on the issue by all 16 Standing Committee members was completed. However, the majority of leaders opined that the party should develop some mechanism for managing intra-party theoretical and other disputes, but they remained silent on the issue of party action against Bhattarai.

Some influential party leaders from the party hardline camp sided with Bhattarai and demanded that the party focus on the organizational issues instead. “We have so many organizational issues to settle. I don´t get it why this issue is being blown up,” a Standing Committee member quoted party influential leader Netra Bikram Chand as saying Tuesday.

Chand is of the opinion that the party cannot successfully launch a “people´s revolt”, a political program aimed at seizing state power, without the support of the “urban middle class” and the educated, whom Bhattarai represents. Besides, Chand´s group is suspicious of Dahal, who may “dump the line of people´s revolt and betray them completely” after sidelining Bhattarai. The group wants to check the “middle line tendency” of Dahal, who maintains his supremacy vacillating between the lines of Baidya and Bhattarai.

Sources said Chand also lambasted Dahal for “deviating” from the decision of the Palungtar plenum. “The last Central Committee (CC) meeting was supposed to debate things. But the chairman´s document was endorsed without any discussion,” a leader quoted Chand as saying during the meeting. Party secretary CP Gajurel had also voiced a similar concern during the meeting Tuesday.

Party insiders said party Vice-chairman Narayankaji Shrestha and Girirajmani Pokharel had sided with Dahal.

“The Standing Committee will rather chart out a plan on how to manage intra-party disputes and differences. The chairman is not in a position to take action against Bhattarai as the majority of leaders have stood against his proposal,” said a senior Maoist leader close to Bhattarai.

It may be recalled that the party had suspended Bhattarai and party leaders Dinanath Sharma and Hisila Yami for their differences with Dahal and dissent over party policy just before the Chunwang meeting in 2005.

As per the decision of the last CC meeting, the party Standing Committee meeting was supposed to chart out an action-plan for implementation of the peace process and for reshuffling party responsibilities among the leaders.

Bhattarai camp in wait-and-see mood

KATHMANDU, Dec 21: Shocked by the party´s decision last Friday, the Maoist faction led by Vice-chairman Dr Baburam Bhattarai is now in a mood to wait and see till December-end, when the party will finalize the division of responsibilities among its leaders, and chart out its course accordingly.

“We will see how the establishment approaches us and finalizes the reshuffling of party responsibilities, and we will forge our strategy accordingly,” said a senior Maoist leader close to Bhattarai.

The hard-line faction led by Senior Vice-chairman Mohan Baidya has also demanded a lion´s share in the party organization.

According to sources, the party establishment has not yet made any concrete move for reconciliation with Bhattarai, though some leaders close to Baidya are seriously looking for ways to that end.

With the backing of the party´s hard-line faction, Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal got his political document endorsed by the Central Committee last Friday, ignoring the political views of Dr Bhattarai who had vehemently opposed Dahal´s proposal to go for a “people´s revolt” and declare India the “principal enemy”.

The Bhattarai faction has put forward two conditions for reconciliation: reasonable share of the party´s organizational positions and no ban on freedom of expression.

The CC meeting on Friday decided to ban party leaders from freely expresssing their ideological views through publications other than the official one to be published by the party.

Bhattarai faction leaders have stated that they would abide by the party decision if some mechanism is developed to disseminate their views. “But nobody should dare to stifle our voice,” said a party central leader from the Bhattarai camp.

The cental leader said it is up to the establishment to manage majority and minority voices in the party. “But if they move ahead ignoring our voice, it may lead to dire consequences,” he said.

Bhattarai preparing to register dissent
KATHMANDU, Dec 20: Disagreeing with the party´s new tactical line of a “people´s revolt”, Maoist Vice-chairman Dr Baburam Bhattarai is making preparations to register his dissent in the party.

“We will probably register the document in four days,” said Maoist Central Committee (CC) member Ganga Shrestha, who is close to Bhattarai.

As per the plan, over 40 CC members from the Bhattarai camp would sign the document and officially register it as dissent.

With the backing of party hard-line camp, Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal had declared a “people´s revolt” as the party´s tactical line and India the principal enemy.

It will be the first time in the party history that dissent will be formally registered against the party line. When the party was still in insurgency, Bhattarai had once registered 13-point and 4-point dissenting letters in the forms of opinion against Chairman Dahal´s “monopoly over the party” that led his suspension from the party. But the two leaders had later reconciled.

Bhattari is against the party decision to launch a “people´s revolt” to realize the goal of peace and the constitution of a “People´s federal democratic republic”, and declaring India the principal enemy.

Outlining the model of revolution in the document, Bhattarai has argued for the institutionalization of political achievements made so far before making another stride toward realizing the party´s ideological goals.

The Bhattarai faction has argued that the party must pay attention to the adverse geo-political situation before deciding to launch a revolt. “It is people who should take to the streets for a revolt; party cadres alone are not sufficient,” said a leader close to Bhattari.

Bhattarai has argued that the party decision will lead to a situation where the political achievements made so far will be lost and there will only be anarchy. Bhattarai had stated that the political line would lead to a “counter-revolution,” after anarchy prevails in post-May 28 Nepal.

Meanwhile, sources say second generation party leaders have become active for reconciliation between Dahal and Bhattarai. Leaders from both Bhattarai and Baidya factions are taking the initiatives. “But we are not yet sure how things will move ahead,” said a leader close to Baidya.

From Chunwang to post-Palungtar
“There is no option to unity, transformation and a revolt. There is nothing but a world to win, and become martyrs for it. And there is no space for any betrayal or deviation.”

So said Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal while summarizing the cadres´ views expressed during the recently concluded sixth plenum in Gorkha district (Lal Raskshyak, Issue 3). With their radical speeches, the top leaders tried to assure around 6,000 cadres that the party has not yet enmeshed in the dirty waters of parliamentary politics, and that they would move ahead united, as never before, and complete the “revolution”. And while most cadres returned home convinced, the leaders have remained as divided over the party line as they were before the plenum.

In a major tactical shift, the Maoist Chunwang meeting had decided to forge an alliance with parliamentary political parties against the monarchy and push for a federal democratic republic in Nepal.

Disillusioned with monarchy after the royal putsch on Feb 1, 2005, Maoist Chairman Dahal, who was initially for joining hands with the monarchy against the parties and waging a “tunnel war” against India, reversed position and decided to go for a competitive political system under a federal democratic republic – the political line floated by Maoist party Vice-Chairman Dr Baburam Bhattarai.

Based on the mandate of the “historic meeting”, the Maoists forged a 12-point agreement with the parties, and following the success of Janaandolan II, the former rebels joined the peace process, and subsequently became a dominant force in national politics.

Five years on, the Maoist Chunwang line has faltered before meeting its target, and the party is currently facing an ideological dilemma and indecisiveness, thanks to the assertive hard-line camp at the Palungtar plenum and the shifting balance of power within the party. The sixth plenum not only failed to pass any political line, but also witnessed growing factionalism and widening ideological rifts among the top three leaders: Dahal, Bhattarai and Senior Vice-Chairman Mohan Baidya.

With the Palungtar plenum fiasco, the peace process has fallen into a crisis also, and the progenitors of the Chunwang line will have to work really hard to save their brainchild. Party insiders say Dahal´s “dubious ideological posture”, besides serious threats from the hard-line camp, has pushed the party into an ideological dilemma and the future of the country´s ongoing political process into jeopardy. The former rebel leaders are now a confused lot and remain sharply at odds over the party line.

DAHAL´S STRATEGY & IDEOLOGICAL DILEMMA

In the sixth plenum, Chairman Dahal attacked on two fronts simultaneously: Baidya´s organizational strength and Bhattarai´s political line.

In proposing to declare India the party´s principal enemy, Dahal tried to kill two birds with one stone: 1) gaining potential support from Baidya and cashing in on the cadres´ anti-India sentiments; and 2) projecting himself as a leader with a separate political line and vision by adding the India factor to the Chunwang line.

In Dahal´s own words, declaring India the principal enemy means making “preparations at national level for resistance against Indian interferences”, something that obviously runs counter to the Chunwang line of peace and constitution. With that anti-India rhetoric, Dahal has reignited the pre-Chunwang intra-party conflict between himself and Dr Bhattarai. Back then, Dahal had not only suspended Bhattarai from the party for being “pro-Indian”, but also kept him under house arrest and alerted the combatants against any “attempt by India to rescue him with helicopters”. Later Dahal conceded his mistake and adopted the line of Dr Bhattarai. Now Dahal is using his old strategy in the changed political circumstances and intra-party dynamics.

Party leaders say Dahal´s move served yet another important purpose: Maintaining his grip on the party by seeking confrontation with India. The Maoist leadership is getting alienated not only from the masses, but also from its own cadres. And turning the cadres´ attention toward India could be a good red-herring.

Due to serious objections from Bhattarai over the issue of naming the party´s principal enemy and sharp ideological differences with Baidya, Dahal was however pushed into a minority in the plenum and his synthesized document failed. The plenum could not take any clear political line, and ended in a fiasco.

The second serious threat to the Chungwang line comes from the hard-line camp led by Baidya, who has attacked Dahal for not launching a “people´s revolt” to achieve the goal of a “People´s Federal Democratic Republic”, the line passed by the Kharipati national conclave two years back.

After the Kharipati meeting, both Dahal and Bhattarai downplayed the “People´s Federal Democratic Republic” line, arguing that it was not much different from the Chunwang line, and that they cannot go for radical communist line as they have already signed the peace deals. But the Palungtar plenum proved that it is not easy to ignore the Kharipati line as the Baidya camp, besides strongly pushing for its implementation, even threatened to revolt against the party. The hard-line camp sees the ongoing political process as a deviation from the communist ideological goals and wants to break it completely.

Party insiders say the Palungtar plenum clearly showed at least one thing: The Maoist party cannot afford to ride roughshod over the revolutionary zeal of indoctrinated cadres and complete the peace process without any possibility of achieving its ideological goals. “What we saw is that the party cannot shed its revolutionary spirit; it cannot follow the path of the CPN-UML; and it cannot be so easily dragged into dirty politics, forgetting its broad ideological goals,” says a Maoist leader after participating in the plenum.

And not losing its “revolutionary spirit” obviously means not going for completion of the peace process and constitution-drafting – at least not on the terms and conditions set by the Nepali Congress (NC) or the CPN-UML.

MAOIST COURSE POST-PALUNGTAR

After their failure to pass any political line during the plenum, the Maoists have stated that they would formulate a common short-term “action plan”. But the leaders are yet to agree on the contents of the action plan, which are directly related to the broad ideological differences including the assessment of the Chunwang line and naming the party´s principal enemy.

Failure to name the principal enemy means indecisiveness for the communists, who believe that “history moves forward through the process of thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis” and that all they have to do is “intensify struggles against the principal enemy to effect revolutions and facilitate the movement of history.” In the words of hard-line Maoist leader: “How can you go to the battlefield without knowing who is your enemy.” And the fate of Chunwang line has been left in uncertainty due to Dahal´s changed position on India, Baidya´s push for its demolition.

Without consensus on these key issues, the party will focus on the wording of its official document to make the party line acceptable to all the factions, regardless of how ambiguous it looks or how well it works. But such a plan will not lead the Maoist party anywhere. It means reiterating the rhetoric of peace and constitution and doing the opposite in practice. It means holding secret talks with Indian agencies for government leadership, and intensifying struggle for “national sovereignty” at the same time. And it means telling the world that the party is ready for compromise for the sake of peace and constitution, and whipping up the party cadres to complete the “revolution” at the same time. Four years after it joined the peace process, the party is now completely at a loss. Fallout: The peace process and the new constitution are not likely to see the light of day before May 28 unless a miracle happens.

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