Nepali Times
State Of The State
Revolution, regression and reformation


The latest buzzword in Kathmandu's seminar circuit is 'triangular conflict' and the need for unity among constitutional forces. Civil society would prefer the parties and the Maoists joining hands to establish absolute democracy. In the cacophony, it seems we are all fighting for a lost cause.

The Nepali Congress leads the mainstream agitation to have the supremacy of constitution restored. Its political agenda has universal sanction. The issue of constitutionalism is faultless. Even King Gyanendra finds it convenient to use the word with a "meaningful" prefix while he consolidates power in the state apparatus.

Despite the physical gains posted by nearly a decade of democracy the NC has failed to convince the populace that it was devoted to ensuring socio-economic justice. All those kilometres of roads, number of health-posts and impressive universities do little to convince the exploited and excluded that the government they repeatedly elected worked for them. Out-of-job management consultants and aspiring technocrats drafted economic policies of the NC. Despite the assertions of Mahat, Acharya & Co the middleclass refuses to accept that the decade of multiparty democracy was indeed good for them.

As for the Maoists, they represent an ideology that has been discredited everywhere in the world. They swear by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism synthesised as Prachanda Path which is just leftist extremism with a Nepali brand name. Communism had its chance and failed. Economically, it destroyed nations. Socially, it created a hierarchy more rigid than what it replaced. Its hegemonic culture was so intolerant of diversity that chaos ensued as soon as it was overthrown. But it is the moral collapse of communism that has been the most spectacular. The Soviets and the Chinese had a historic opportunity to create a new world order, but failed to rise over narrow nationalism. Communism created schizophrenic societies to scared to look into the mirror. It evolved into a card-carrying caste system too scared to think beyond its own survival. Cuba and North Korea aren't freak cases: they represent the natural state of an ideology based on fear-fear of class enemy, fear of freedom, fear of openness, and most of all, fear of change.

How does one explain seemingly well-informed Baburam Bhattarai, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Ram Bahadur Thapa still believing in an ideology that brought so much misery to so many for so long?

An authoritarian monarchy is the mirror image of totalitarian communism. It also draws its strength from the dread of the 'other'-other beliefs, other nationalities, and anything that doesn't conform to the officially described definition of 'us'. When King Gyanendra urges party leaders to stop saying 'me' and start saying 'us', he is in fact telling them to discard individuality, the real enemy of all authoritarian rulers. Free citizens pose the greatest challenge to fear societies. The international community is making too much of the appointment of Giri, Gauchan and their ilk. What do you expect from a sick system where loyalty rather than ability is the criteria for selection?

The game of name calling between the parties, Maoists and monarchists is like the pot, kettle, and charcoal calling each other black. Mainstream parties have at least one saving grace: they don't kill people who don't agree with them. They will stand on their own without joining forces with the other two proponents of violent politics.

Revolution is revenge with the past. Memories of enslaved ancestors-not dreams of utopia-drive people to kill each other. Despite their liberation ideology, the Maoists have failed to fire the primal passion that leads a revolution to a swift conclusion. So they have no option but to join the middle ground which they helped destroy. That will be the revenge of history.

Regression is the exact opposite of revolution: the desire of the ruler to restore the glory of his forefathers. Both revolution and regression are fuelled by contested versions of the same history.

Reformation is an affirmation of faith in the future. Mainstream parties need support in opposing those who are imprisoned by their pasts.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)