It seems conflict, mutual accusation and eventual split are inherent in the communist and socialist movement since its inception. The First International, which was the common name of International Working Men’s Association, collapsed owing to the raging dispute between Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin. Their conflict was more ideological than personal though the issue of nationality had apparent role in driving a wedge between them. Marx suspected that Bakunin was a Russian agent working to subvert the international labour movement. He accused the leader of anarchists of being devoid of political theory while the latter called the former an ‘authoritarian.’ Marx stressed on organisation’s centralised structure, coherent ideology and workers’ participation in political struggle, which Bakunin rejected in favour of ‘libertarian socialism.’
As the internal dispute reached beyond reconciliation, Marx advised the General Council of the First International (1864-1881) to dissolve it to ‘prevent it from falling into the hands of adventurers and others who might compromise the cause.’ The disbanding of the First International was the stark reminder of the fact that the socialist movement passed through integration and disintegration from its formative years. But what is more surprising is that in the heat of argument, the communist leaders charged their own close comrades in the strongest of repulsive terms, setting a bad political culture for their future movement.
V. I. Lenin once called Leon Trotsky as ‘Judas’ when they clashed over how a revolutionary party should be organised. However, later both the revolutionaries became best friends and teamed up to orchestrate the 1917 October Revolution that shook not only Russia but the world. But Stalin manipulated Trotsky’s differences with Lenin to purge and physically finish him. In yet another verbal onslaught, Lenin had derided Karl Kautsky as ‘renegade’ for criticising Bolsheviks’ embrace of ‘dictatorship of the proletariat,’ which the German Marxist said, distorted Marx and Engels’ ideas of democracy and its relation to socialism and revolution.
There has been tendency among the communist leaders to cast aspersions on their own comrades over their minor disagreement on their tactic and ideology. They resort to derogatory jargons such as revisionists, capitulationists, reactionary, ultra-leftist, ultra-rightist, capitalist-roaders, running dogs, traitors and even treasonists to scoff at their friends with whom they have stuck together through thick and thin. Nepali communist movement is not an exception. It is marked by irreconcilable squabbles between its leaders, their personal ego, mudslinging and splits, leading to their own downfall.
It is a big irony that some communist parties and leaders have accused Pushpa Lal, the founding general secretary of Nepal Communist Party (NCP), of being gaddar (traitor) over their discord on the methods of struggle against the autocratic Panchayat regime. Pushpa Lal translated Communist Manifesto into Nepali, established and expanded the party, relentlessly fought against Rana and Panchayat rulers and led scores of peasant revolts against the landlords. But his own colleagues and disciples slandered, hounded and harassed him throughout his life. Veteran communist leader Mohan Bikram Singh had indicted Pushpa Lal as traitor after the latter refused to put the then banned Nepali Congress into the category of ‘class enemy.’ However, Singh later realised his mistake and retracted his allegation.
However, Singh lamented that the then CPN-Marxist-Leninist (ML), predecessor of current UML, in its mouthpiece ‘Barga Sangarsha’ (class struggle), had accused Pushpa Lal, Manmohan Adhikari and him of being traitors several times but it had not apologised for the venomous charge against them. The ML became UML after its unification with the erstwhile CPN-Marxist under Manmohan Adhikari. The UML that made late Adhikari its first chairman and revered Pushpa Lal as its founding leader never formally decided to atone for such an odious charge.
When the communist leaders split up, the rival friends go to any extent to haul their former comrades over the coals. Following the break-up of the NCP into UML, Maoist Centre and Unified Socialist, their leaders are still engaged in a nasty blame game to demoralise each other to the hilt. Recently, UML chair KP Sharma Oli has accused five leaders of the then NCP – Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, Narayankaji Shrestha and Bam Dev Gautam - of being ‘anti-people’ and ‘treasonist.’ These leaders had banded together against Oli’s dominance in the party. Their factional feud finally led to the collapse of the government and the party as well.
However, it is a serious charge to call someone being involved in an act of treason. Oxford dictionary defines it as a ‘crime of betraying one's country, especially by attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign or government’. Nepal’s Criminal Code 2017 states that a person guilty of treason is sentenced up to 25 years. Former PM Oli is not expected to make such an objectionable charge against his own former colleagues just because they are now at opposite poles.
Such a political intolerance and spiteful tirade converts friends into foes, causing vertical division of their parties and a huge damage to the entire left movement. They better stop indulging in irrational accusation and counter-accusation that has only precluded them from realising their lofty goals of socio-economic transformation of Nepali society. Let’s again return to the dispute at the First International, the first-ever systematic initiative to guide the workers’ movement on a global scale. But it suffered the split between the Marxists and the anarchists, which were referred as the ‘red’ and ‘black’ respectively. Upon hearing of their break, German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had said: “Crowned heads, wealth and privilege may well tremble should ever again the Black and Red unite!”
(The author is Deputy Executive Editor of this daily.)