19-25 July 2013 #665

A federation of factions

Almost everyting is on hold until the internal power struggle within the UCPN (M) is sorted out
Muma Ram Khanal
All eyes should now be on the preparations for the proposed all-party roundtable meeting, but the media focus is on the UCPN (M) Plenum which has been called on Friday to resolve a ridiculous ideological and political dispute within the party.

Lenin used to say that the organisation of a communist party is the organisation of the hierarchy of its leaders. There is a pecking order of committees under a chairman and all leftists, ultra-leftists, reformists, even revisionists around the world operate under this Leninist party structure.

The UCPN (M) is no different. No matter how loudly the party utters the term ‘democratic centralism’, its methods and manner of mobilising the cadre are individualistic and centralist. An organisation controlled and directed by a single person who is always above everyone else cannot survive for long. The clamour for a share of power and party posts within the UCPN (M) represents a reaction to the position-mongering of its chairman who has been the helmsman-in-chief for over two decades now.

The UCPN (M) is today a federation of factions. Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal is finding it more difficult than during the conflict to maintain a balance among the groupists. In open political milieu of the present, Dahal can’t hypnotise his cadre with revolutionary speeches anymore. That is why he has kept postponing the party congress on various pretexts.

The Hetauda Congress in April was held after the party split and at a time of relative ideological conformity, the party started toeing an almost ‘parliamentary’ line, but it remained under one-man rule. Certainly, the present crisis would not have arisen if the election of the vital posts and members of the central committee had been held in Hetauda.

Quite the opposite, the system of individual designation was put in place on the recommendation of Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Baburam Bhattarai to solve the problem of exclusion of their own loyalists and the leaders of the particular faction from the top echelons of the party.

The other leaders, who have understood the reality of how the influential posts of a party are converted into cash from their seniors, now have started to stake a claim to the principal posts and the demand to distribute party positions has reached a climax.

Bhattarai clearly represents those most dissatisfied with Dahal’s hold on power and cult of personality. After the party split, it was impossible for Bhattarai to stay on as vice-chairman on equal footing with Narayan Kaji Shrestha. He wanted to be Number Two in the hierarchy and has been discussing this with Dahal who has kept ignoring it. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore and resigned as vice-chairman last week in typical hypocritical fashion in which he tried to portray it as a selfless act of sacrifice. Everyone knows Bhattarai wasn’t renouncing anything, he just wanted a more senior position.

Bhattarai has been offered the position of ‘senior leader’, but internal party dynamics have gotten even more complicated. In the past, Dahal played the balancing role between Bhattarai’s ‘parliamentary’ line and the radical line of Baidya. If both leave the party, however, Dahal will have no option but to unite with Baidya. Which is why the chairman is hell-bent on keeping Bhattarai on board by offering him the ‘senior leader’ lollipop.

The November elections has given Dahal a further sense of urgency to keep Bhattarai reined in. The two may distrust each other, but they need each other. The extended meeting of the party will be a formality to endorse a pre-mediated secret deal that Dahal and Bhattarai will have to strike. But it will shatter the ambition of other leaders, even though Bhattarai’s return to the fold amidst garlands will be hailed as a great achievement.

The crisis within the UCPN (M) therefore is not really ideological, but rather the clash of ambitions between Dahal and Bhattarai. Unless a new system in which all positions and members are elected is introduced, the party’s special congress will just be a show in which everything, as usual, has been decided beforehand.

Muma Ram Khanal was a central leader of the CPN (Maoist) during the insurgency. His new column, Inside Out, will appear every fortnight in Nepali Times.

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