There have been signs in recent times that UCPN (Maoist) is trying to establish itself as a mainstream political force that gains its legitimacy through the ballot rather than the barrel of the gun. If the political document presented by Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal at the ongoing general convention in Hetauda is anything to go by, the party has formally abandoned the course of ‘people’s war’ and decided to continue on the path of peaceful politics to consolidate post-2006 gains.
As such, the Hetauda conclave is being seen as a watershed for the party’s transformation from a hardcore cadre-based communist party into a mass-based democratic party. The reason for this transformation is clear. After emerging as the biggest democratically elected party in the 2008 CA polls, and subsequently getting to lead the government twice, the Maoists are confident that they can do well in open electoral politics, especially at a time the two traditional political powerhouses in NC and CPN-UML appear to be at their weakest.
But the transformation of the Maoist party into a genuine democratic party has only just started—if their commitment to peaceful politics is to be believed at all. Dahal’s political document leaves open the option of violence if the party’s attempts to ‘consolidate progressive changes are thwarted’. Thus the party leadership’s commitment to democratic polity is still suspect. The Maoist leaders have been saying that the armed phase of the revolution is complete and the little remaining work can be completed through peaceful means. The fear is that they could go back on their commitment to peaceful politics the moment they feel election calculations are not in their favor. There are other ambiguities. The political document states the creation of a socialist state as the party’s ultimate goal. But what kind of socialism will it be? The regressive kind practiced in former USSR or the progressive democratic socialism witnessed in Scandinavia today? There needs to be more clarity in the Maoist ideological stand.
Then there are suspicions regarding Chairman Dahal’s true political beliefs. It is widely known that he accepted vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai’s line of ‘peace and constitution’ only as a signpost towards the ultimate goal of state capture. Now, it appears Dahal has come around to believing that peace and constitution are ends in themselves, not road stops to some utopian communist ideal. But given Dahal’s famous flip-flopping tendencies, there are reasons to doubt his words. The good news is that for the very first time, the party’s internal document has abandoned the goal of state capture.
But the party’s reluctance to vacate office for a new consensus government, eight long months after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, fans suspicions that it wants to continue at the head of the government indefinitely. By destroying all constitutional mechanisms and forestalling new CA polls, the Maoists are alleged to have all but achieved their goal of state capture. The party’s willingness to clear the way for new CA polls will send an unmistakable message that UCPN (Maoist) is a genuine democratic force committed to time-honored democratic traditions like plurality and periodic elections