In an article published some years ago in international research journal Pacific Affairs, entitled “Factionalism in the Communist Movement in Nepal,” I had said that the ideological variability, the geometry of relations between communist powers, and in country-specific cases, the sociological behavior of leaders were the primary causes of factionalism across the globe. At the time the article was published there were about 20 communist factions and sub-factions in Nepal. Factionalism is inherent in the communist movement and Nepal is no exception. In the latest sequel of factionalism, the UCPN which has put the word “Maoist” in parenthesis since its formation, split on June 18, 2012. The splinter group calls itself Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, i.e., it has put a hyphen to link the CPN to the word “Maoist”. This paper examines two questions concerning the split. First, what will be the nature of the political confrontation between the two Maoist parties? And second, what impact will this have on the major parties’ efforts to forge national consensus?
Russia became the first country to have a formally named communist party the year the Bolsheviks seized power in October 1917. The Third Communist International held in 1919 required all member countries to uniformly adopt the name communist party, followed by the name of the country. Following this several erstwhile socialist or workers parties of Europe were renamed as communist parties. They also began to follow Lenin’s recipe of a fully centralized party led by a small vanguard of élites and a well scrutinized cadre policy. Almost all communist dictatorship with the exception of China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos and North Korea, were swept away by the tide of democracy in late 1980s.
However, several hundred communist parties continue to function as part of multiparty systems throughout the world. Many revolutionary communist parties are active with the aim of overthrowing existing political and social system militarily to establish a communist dictatorship. Another common element among all communist parties is the use of parenthesis and hyphen.
Invariably every communist party has to be specified and differentiated by a noun such as Marxism, Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, etc. One does not find common practice in the use of above nouns. For example, in the United Kingdom the communist parties have different styles. The Communist Party of Great Britain uses brackets to identify itself as (ML). Another party calls itself the Revolutionary Party of Britain (ML). Brazil and Turkey have communist parties named Marxist-Leninist with the names of the individual countries in parenthesis. The communist parties of Benin and Ecuador put the adjective first i.e., the Marxist-Leninist Party followed by the country in brackets.
There are also examples of communist parties using hyphen to express a direct link either with a noun or an adjective. For example, the Russian Workers Party has used the hyphen to link with Revolutionary Party of Communist. In India the communist parties use adjectives “Marxist”, or “Leninist” or “Maoist” within parenthesis. India’s communist parties also put “communist” in parenthesis and there are even examples of communist parties using two brackets, for example, Communist Party of India (M-L) (Kanun Sanyal).
The UCPN (Maoist) has been using parenthesis to enclose the word “Maoist” since its inception. Besides following general practice, the aim was to differentiate itself from other competing communist parties, in both its ends and means. Sixteen years and four months after the CPN (Maoist) launched its first guerrilla activity in 1996, the party split to give rise to CPN-Maoist. This new party decided to connect the “Communist Party of Nepal” and “Maoist” with a hyphen. One hard line faction of the UCPN (Maoist) had already split with the mother party in 2009 and had simply removed “United” to reclaim the original revolutionary character. Not surprisingly, it also split in June 2012. Although hyphen is considered less formal in English grammar, the idea is to highlight that it represents the true ideology and means of Maoism.
In the context of Nepal, confrontation for ideological monopoly will be one of its features for some time to come. Politics is all about possibilities, however, given the ideological distance between CPN-Maoist and UCPN (Maoist), the two are unlikely to unite in the near future. On the contrary, according to the Darwinian-Marxist theory, violent radicalism becomes necessary at some point for parties that embrace Maoism. Bringing evolutionary logic to bear in this matter, in the arena of political radicalism only one powerful force can survive. The UCPN (Maoist), happy it is at the US lifting the terror tag, has not formally renounced violence, nor has it apologized to the families of hundreds killed unjustifiably. Its indoctrinated combatants are in the final leg of integration and it has committed many times over to competitive democracy and fundamental human rights. Yet, its chairman stated as late as early July 2012 that the current program of peace and constitution only partially addressed ‘people’s revolt’ and force was necessary to complete the revolution.
Theoretically, UCPN (Maoist) will reel under the temptation of violence and people’s democracy so long as it encloses Maoist in parenthesis. The CPN-Maoist claims to be the real Maoists and as such will give continuity to the ideology and strategy followed during the ‘people’s war’. It has recently threatened to take up arms to attain state power if peaceful means fail. It has very openly stated that ‘people’s revolt’ might be necessary to seize power. Hence it follows that no two Maoist parties that have openly preached ‘people’s revolt’ can coexist side by side. There clearly will be a zero sum game of ideology or power. The bracketed Maoist claims it has taken a softer approach toward the new outfit. However, most CPN-Maoist senior members feel betrayed when decision to go for competitive democratic republic was taken at the Chunbang meeting in 2005, while they were languishing in an Indian prison. CPN-Maoists’ submission of the 70-point demand on September 10 to the prime minister is a strategy of the hyphenated Maoist party to both humiliate him and to signal the onset of politics of confrontation.
This likely confrontation poses a serious impediment to national consensus between UCPN (Maoist), its unnatural ally, Madehsi Morcha and NC and UML. UCPN (Maoist) is bargaining from a position of strength as it controls the government. Ironically, it is not going to agree fresh election either for a constituent assembly or a legislative assembly. This is because of the presence of the hyphenated Maoist party. The bracketed Maoist party has become a little accommodative on the issue of ethnic-federalism to entice NC and UML to agreeing on CA’s revival.
To inveigle the NC into agreeing to its demand it has proposed that NC will head the national unity government. The bracketed Maoist party will at the most agree on making the provinces multiple-identity based but will insist that they be named after single ethnic groups. This is not acceptable to NC and UML. The bracketed Maoist party’s strategy is to isolate the hyphenated party but if UCPN (Maoist) it takes a softer stance on this issue, CPN-Maoist will attract more and more of its janajati cadres.
The hyphenated Maoist party has picked up the insurgency-day strategy of proposing a roundtable assembly, formation of an all-party government, and drafting a new constitution. It has rejected going for fresh election, let alone for CA revival. It means that psycho-politically, the growing enmity between the two Maoists is the real cause of current impasse. This will impede the major parties from reaching a consensus before the middle of September as asked by the President. It also means that the distrust among the key players will further widen, which will push the country into a serious political morass.
The author is senior NC leader