I know that this post is oddly out of step with the exciting developments in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen (indeed, it stinks of, what Badiou correctly problematizes as, the rendering of the Party as the only site of politics) but, I think that in light of the plethora of other writing on this issue and the insightful comments made by JMP regarding the situation there that I should focus on recent developments in the UCPN(Maoist). A revolutionary party that led the people’s war in Nepal from 1996-2006 and was a principal participant/organizer in the protests there that resulted in the collapse of the Nepalese monarchy (unfortunately at the time Nepal did not receive even a fraction of the media coverage and attention that Tunisia did, more focus of Egypt of course makes sense due to its particularly privileged position in the Middle-East economically and politically).
A dear comrade and friend of mine recently sent out this article from My Republica titled, “Parallel committee formed in Maoist trade union” (it has been posted below) and concluded in his short added comments wrote that he believed that there would be a three-way split in the UCPN(Maoist): 1) Prachanda faction; 2) Kiran faction and 3) Bhattarai faction. I had two initial mental responses to this: 1) that just because a parallel union center was established does not mean to suggest that such a parallel Party center has been established or is being established, and that one could simply argue that the formation of a parallel union center could be an easily localizable affair to a specific comrade’s behavior i.e. there is no split underway and; 2) I would like to argue that although there are three factions in the UCPN(Maoist), there actually exist only two lines and in practice I think that if there were to be a split it would only be into two factions: 1) Prachanda faction and 2) the Bhattarai-Kiran faction. Indeed, I think that a split in the UCPN(Maoist) may be perhaps the first time in communist history that that the ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ in the Party would effectively break from the “Center”.
So let us deal with my initial thought: what split? Although the article my friend sent out was indeed alarming, an interview with both sides of the debate published the following day made it clear that all sides in the dispute would respect the decision of the Party and had sent the issue up to their superiors for resolution (this too has been posted below). Indeed, I think that we must recognize that the UCPN(Maoist) has become a mass party in both aspects of the word: 1) they are indeed a “mass” party in that they have hundred’s of thousands of members, many of whom joined after the PPW, and are not as ideologically consistent as they once were but have simultaneously gained political power from such an expansion of membership and 2) that their brand of Maoism has actually been garner mass support from different sections of society, which unfortunately also allows for a possible political degeneration (indeed, this degeneration is the principal problem that was faced in the USSR and China and resulted in their abandonment of the revolutionary process). Recognizing that the Party has become a ‘greater mass’ in constitution and support means that there will be definitely elements that will enter into the Party or already exist in the Party that will want to use it for their own reasons like the amassing of wealth and power, that these elements like all people in a communist party will belong to a specific faction, and that there must be a process by which to rectify such situations. Thus, the forming of a parallel center of the trade union in which the trade union president has become such a corrupt element is a localized problem and does not necessarily reflect developments at a national political level such as a split, especially when all sides of the localized conflict have agreed to respect the decision of the national Party apparatus. Furthermore, we must remember that this does not prove that this trade union president, if he has indeed engaged in such misconduct, was always a corrupt element.
Regarding the second thought: a 2-line struggle/3 political factions/2-way-split:
2-line struggle: One thing has become clear over the last few years: there is no Prachanda thought. Indeed, it has even further become clear that there is no Prachanda-line but rather, a tendency for Prachanda to oscillate between camps depending on which way the wind is blowing and the, once useful, capacity to mediate between two ideologically-stronger factions through the production of synthesized line documents. However, in the past few years there has been less and less evidence that he is able to mediate these differences any longer and is unable to intervene into the Bhattarai-Kiran debate with a line of his own.
3 political factions/2-way-split: there are more than 3 factions in the UCPN(Maoist), however, there are three main factions (although it must also be recognized that any given member of a faction may agree with another faction on any given issue) led by the three leaders mentioned above. In recent months different newspapers sources have tried to identify politbureau, central committee and standing committee members on the basis of a given factional affiliation. The Kiran and Bhattarai factions have the clearest lines, whilst the Prachanda line remains amorphous and eclectic. Thus, it makes perfect sense that there would be a three-way split. Then why do I insist that there would be a two-way split if a split was to occur? I argue this because its clear from this article and several other articles that I have posted in December 2010 that the Bhattarai and Kiran factions, despite the seeming chasm between their positions, have been supporting one another in factional fights with Prachanda. For example, last month when rumors circulated that Bhattarai would be disciplined by Prachanda for speaking in the press about his own position in the debate, the Kiran faction objected to any possibility of discipline against him. Even in this current conflict in the trade unions the Kiran and Bhattarai factions have attempted to work together and join together.
The time is coming closer and closer when Prachanda may find that he and his faction will be on the loosing side of history and that for all of his attempts to become Prime Minister he may simply end up becoming another marginal communist has-been like Mohan Bikram Singh and his group, unless he does something drastic to change his fortunes. However, it is clear that to do so Prachanda and his faction are going to have to rectify their behavior in the Party and attempt to work in a principled and disciplined manner. Indeed, Prachanda needs to recognize that he may be President of the UCPN(Maoist) but the real power rests not in his hands, but in those of his Vice-Presidents and that he can no longer boss them around using palace-intrigues and over-centralized power. In effect Prachanda and his faction may need to spend some time re-reading Mao’s “Combat Liberalism” if he is going to survive.
Parallel committee formed in Maoist trade union
KATHMANDU, Jan 31: As internal disputes deepen within the Maoist trade union, factions loyal to Senior Vice-chairman Mohan Baidya and Vice-chairman Dr Baburam Bhattarai have begun exercise to form parallel unions — both in the districts and at the center.
The disgruntled leaders of the Maoist-aligned All Nepal Trade Union Federation (ANTUF) have accused union chief Salikram Jamakattel of embezzlement, secret dealings with owners for personal benefits, and “dictatorial behaviors” toward those loyal to Baidya and Bhattarai factions.
Those close to Baidya have already formed a parallel union in Lalitpur district and the group is holding negotiation with the Bhattarai group to form a parallel union at the center.
“We will set up a parallel union at the center within a week,” said ANTUF Senior Vice-president Badri Bajgain, who is close to Baidya.
Jamakattel, who is loyal to Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has also been accused of joining hands with owners to sack workers who opposed the former´s activities. The chairman, bowing to pressure from other union leaders and workers, had assured party leaders during the last central committee (CC) meeting that he would begin investigation and take action against Jamakattel.
But, the issue was dismissed after party trade union in-charge Shakti Basnet reportedly defended Jamakattel saying nobody should victimize the trade union leader.
“Jamakattel has been using the organization to carry out extortion and robbery,” said Bajagain. “We cannot tolerate any longer,” he added.
The disgruntled factions stated that their frequent complaints about Jamakattel have only fallen on deaf ears.
“We can no longer tolerate this,” said union leader Ramesh Pant, who is close to Bhattarai. “We are discussing how to move ahead,” he added.
The party establishment faction in Lalitpur has formed a committee under the chair of Pradeep Ghising.
“We want to run the organization as per the Leninist principle, but Jamakattel followed the path of Stalin,” said ANTUF Assistant Secretary Laldhwaj Nembang, who is close to Bhattarai. He participated in the function held by Bajgain and congratulated him for forming a parallel committee.
Jamakattel group had even beaten two members of Bajgain faction at Khanna Garment on Saturday.
Jamakattel, however, said that he knew nothing about the parallel committee.
Rival Maoist unionists await party decision
The rival factions of the Maoist trade union — one led by trade union´s Chairman Salikram Jamkattel (belonging to Dahal faction) and another by Vice-chairman Badri Bajgain (of Baidya faction) — are now on a warpath. As the differences between the leaders of the two factions erupted on Monday, Republica´s Kiran Pun talked to them:
Your Union´s senior Vice-chairman Bajgain has said he will form a parallel trade union. What is your view in this regard?
We are trying to resolve the differences through discussions. The problem isn´t as big as has been portrayed by the media.
The Bajgain faction has accused you of being a new feudal leader and questioned your ability to lead the trade union. What do you have to say on the allegations?You better ask this question to them. If you ask me, the problem is not personal but political. The problem in the trade union is the reflection of the ideological conflict in the party.
The Bajgain faction say that they formed a parallel trade union after you did not give them space. In this context, how the problem could be solved?
We have never neglected them.
But they said you never invite them to discuss problems.
We have been meeting occasionally.
Another allegation is that you sent ´goons´ to beat up their supporters, loot goods and set things on fire at Khanna Garment in Lalitpur.
No, that is a false allegation. We neither beat up anyone nor burnt anything.
But your rival faction have accused your men of beating Tika Khadka and Rama Lama, who had delivered recently, at Khanna garment on Saturday.
No, that´s not right.
But they have claimed that the two women were beaten up by your ´goons´?
I have already said that is not true.
Similarly, you have been accused of joining hands with employers like Chappal Karkhana, Pepsi Cola and many security companies who have sacked over 150 workers.
I have no idea who were sacked from where.
You said the problem is political. If everything is alright within the trade union, why did they form a parallel union?
Discussions are under way to solve the problem.
Reportedly, hundreds of complaints have been registered against you in the party headquarter accusing you of corruption, establishing monopoly in the trade union, extortion and joining hands with employers to sack employees.
I´m not aware of such complaints against me. Nothing has come up so far during the meetings I have had with Chairman [Pushpa Kamal Dahal] and [the party´s] office bearers. We have had several meetings with the dissident comrades as well. If there were any complaints against me they could have cropped up during the meetings.
How are you going to deal with the formation of the parallel trade union in Lalitpur?
We don´t see it as a parallel union.
Your rivals have claimed forming the parallel trade union became imperative as you tried to turn the trade union into an organization of robbers?
I don´t care what they think of me and I don´t want to comment on others´ false claims. As the chariman of the union, I can say that the problem in the trade union is the reflection of what is going on in the party. The problem [internal conflict] has permeated even in the sister organizations. The problem within the union has persisted because party leadership has not been able to pay attention to it due to the present political situation.
Now that the problem in the trade union has surfaced, has the party leadership taken any initiative to resolve it?
We are making preparations to announce a parallel union and the party is aware of the problems.
But Jamkattel has said that the conflict in the trade union is political one and a reflection of the party´s internal problem?
I don´t want to accuse anybody. We were hopeful that the problem would be resolved through negotiations. But they have started beating up our supporters and resorted to robbery. Hundreds of our comrades have been victimized — they have been either beaten up or sacked. The arguments they have been floating is just an attempt to cover up their misdeeds.
Chairman Jamkattel claimed that he never joined hands with employers to sack any worker?
The demands of the workers and comrades were not met because Jamkattel joined hands with the owners. I don´t want to take the names of the sacked workers who are in the streets now.
You have said that hundreds of workers are sacked. Do you have actual data and names to support your claim?
We have a list that we can disclose if necessary. 12 workers from Chappal Karkhana, 2 from Shrestha Tailoring, 4 from Pepsi Cola and hundreds others from various security companies were sacked. He is no longer fit to be the leader of workers as he has been working against them and showing feudal inclinations lately.
Jamkattel claimed that the two women, Tika Khadka and Rama Lama, who had recently delivered, were not beaten by his supporters.
You can ask Khadka and Lama whether they had been beaten up or not. They were kicked out form Khanna garment and beaten up.
Has party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal taken any initiative to resolve the conflict?
The problem intensified and reached to this stage as the party leadership continued to remain indifferent. The leadership is cognizant of all the problems.
Your faction has already told the party that Jamkattel cannot lead the trade union. If the party retains him as the chairman, will it be acceptable to you?
It is our demand that he should be removed. As party cadres, however, we will respect any decision taken by the party. We are hopeful that the party will take decision in favor of the workers.