The ANTUF(R) Split: Democratic vs. Bureaucratic Centralism.

In recent months the developing crisis inside the UCPN(Maoist)-led trade union front has become, according to some, the clearest expression of the on-going factionalism and division inside the Party and serves as the metaphorical entrails from with which one can read the future of the Party. The latest developments are allegations from the Bhattarai camp that Jammakattel, the leader of the Prachanda-faction in the ATUF(R), has threatened further physical violence against the Bhattarai camp in reprisal for the Bhattarai camp’s formal formation of a parallel committee. This reminds me of Gramsci’s differentiation between democratic and bureaucratic centralism i.e. a political decision-making system that is based on the free-sharing of ideas and strategies within the Party which results in the election of both officials and strategies and the self-adherence to disciplined action rather, than a decision-making system that is dependent on position within political hierarchy and the cold hand of Party-discipline from above. It seems that in this case the Jammakattel faction has resorted to the tactics of the latter model of Party organization and one that I think is incredibly troubling and dangerous for the development of the Nepalese revolution. I do not wish to reduce the question to the particular actions of this individual union leader because the fact that he has not been reined in and has been allowed to behave in such a way publicly means to suggest that he believes that he can continue to engage in such a behavior with no politically disciplinary repercussions and that is a far more troubling sign.

It is no secret that there has been a raging debate within the UCPN(Maoist) regarding questions of centralization of power into an individual, a specific clique or committee, or the devolution of power into local and district committees so that they can develop appropriate social and political programs.  This debate is not new and indeed was one of the central issues debated by Prachanda and Bhattarai in 2004/2005 which resulted in Bhattarai’s brief suspension from the Party. Indeed, in a recent book that I was reading about the GPCR the author talks about the transformation of a very nimble and decentralized communist party that won the war of liberation against the Japanese and the Guiomandang forces and the bloated and centralized communist party that then ran China from 1949 onwards. The question thus becomes can the party become a similarly revolutionary nimble and decentralized party in the post-revolutionary party or does it necessary become the bureaucratic party that we have come to be so familiar with? It seems to me that this is one of the crossroads that the Nepalese Party is now at and unless the Party is able to maintain such internal democratic structures the revolution is already lost.

I think that we all should deplore the threats of physical violence to solve non-antagonistic contradictions amongst the people. However, it is increasingly becoming the case that Jammakattel and his support base within the trade union federation and the Party itself are demonstrating that they have indeed strayed far from the path of revolution, and may be becoming enemies of the Nepalese people (especially if the allegations of collusion between Jammakattel and employers is true). I refuse to believe that the Nepalese peasantry and working class is impressed by these kinds of actions and believe that further such actions serve to only aid in the buttressing of the bourgeois parties. Furthermore, I hope that in the coming days we will see sharp disciplinary action been taken against all perpetrators of threats and violence, a reunification of the trade union federation, and a rectification of the Party. It seems to me that there may be a need for the Party to carry out a thorough rectification of the Party from top to bottom, not only in styles of work and ideological questions, but also the re-institution of basic democratic structures within the Party (starting with a Party congress in which all layers of the Party should be elected).

The rot is spreading and if something is not done soon, the only solution may be to cut off a section of the root. Let us hope it does not come to that.

Jammkattel terror in Bhattarai camp

KATHMANDU, March 24: Factionalism in the Maoist trade union has reached its peak, with the union members resorting to threats of physical actions and assaults against each other.

In the latest episode, the threat of physical action issued by incumbent union chief Salikram Jammakattel has created a sense of terror among the union leaders close to Vice-chairman Dr Baburam Bhattarai. On Wednesday, the unionists close to Bhattarai held a press conference alleging Jammakattel of resorting to threats and physical assaults to bring them to knees.

“The goons hired by Jammakattel have threatened to take physical action if we don´t abide by what he orders. He has also threatened to get us sacked from our jobs,” said union leader Home Subedi, who is close to Bhattarai.

The recent disputes sparked after Jammakattel announced that he has sacked the elected union leaders from the Bhattarai faction for creating a parallel committee. The Bhatttarai faction has stated that the Jammakattel group has barred the union´s chief at Hotel Annapurna, Nara Bahadur Lamichhane, from entering the hotel premises. “Those blocking my way are not the employees of the hotel. The hired goons have threatened to ´annihilate´ me,” said Lamichhane.

Similarly, Jammakattel´s men seized the key of the union´s office at Hotel Hyatt Regency from its chief Mukti Dahal before letting him out of the hotel premises on Wednesday.

In yet another incident, Jammakattel´s men allegedly abducted union leader Narayan Prasad Kharel from Lainchaur and took him hostage for three hours. “They threatened to take physical action if I don´t join their faction,” said Kharel at the press meet.

The growing factionalism in the party has percolated in the party´s trade union that has split vertically into three factions with each forming a parallel committee.

The incumbent chief Jammakattel is close to Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Badri Bajgain leads the faction close to Senior Vice-chairman Mohan Baidya, and Lal Dhwaj Nembang is the chief of the Bhattarai faction. Jammakattel enjoys monopoly in the capital´s casinos, while the Bhattarai faction has a major sway in the hotels and restaurants.

“We strongly demand that the government form a panel to investigate the threats against our lives, jobs and rights to political freedom, and take action against the guilty,” reads a statement signed by the union chiefs of Kathmandu´s major five star hotels.

The Maoist trade union is in disarray, but the party seems helpless in the face of the growing factionalism.

The party standing committee had decided to dissolve the parallel committees formed by Bajgain, downsize the current central committee (CC) to 93 members and mandate it to elect a new leadership through a national convention. But while Jammakattel refused to downsize the CC, Bajgain and Nembang declined to accept Jammkattel as chief of the committee that would hold a national convention.

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