Tuesday, 28 September, 2021

Lamenting The Party Split

Prof. Bhupa P. Dhamala

This is unfortunate to see that Nepali political parties tend to more divide than unite. This has happened in cases of Nepali Congress (NC) and Nepal Communist Party since their inception. In their initial phases, they had united spirit. Once they grew larger, they were entangled in the intraparty feuds which ultimately resulted in disintegration. NC underwent the split in the first decade of the 21st century but was reunited shortly after. The most recent split has taken place in CPN-UML. Many political analysts have interpreted these events from their own perspectives. Still one million dollar question remains: why in essence are political parties more divided than united? Is it because political ideologies are defective or because the powerful political actors tend to disintegrate their parties to serve their ends, and if both are possible causes, which weighs the more?

As I understand, the most obvious cause of split is the contradictory ideology. If a political ideology is uncontroversial, then it can unite all party members. On the contrary, if the ideology is contradictory, then it cannot hold the members into a tight knot. However, the chieftain of each party accuses other leaders of being responsible for intraparty feud and eventual split. The accusations directed toward a particular leader are invalid.

The UML chairman claims, for instance, that his party is still intact, that only a few anarchists have left the mainstream, and that they can return to the parent party if they realise their mistake and ask for forgiveness to which the CPN-Unified Socialist Party chair retorts that UML has been seized by a rightwing leader tending to become a totalitarian executive with his vile ends so it was essential to reorganise it by members with revolutionary spirit.

Ideological contradiction
None of these leaders admit that there might be defects in their ideology. They reiterate that they are Marxist-Leninist and want to achieve the goals set by the People’s Multiparty Democracy. If they have the same goals to achieve, why then are they separated despite being five-decade long fellow travelers? Leaving aside the ideological issues, the prominent leaders are engaged in criticising each other in terms of their intentions. What the leader of each party claims may be partially true but this is not the whole truth. To my understanding, the stalwarts alone are not responsible for the split. The real cause of split is neither the personality difference nor the ideological difference between them but the contradiction within the ideology itself.

One of the most obvious causes of party split at this juncture is essentially conflicting political ideology. A political ideology is conflicting when it contains contradictory ideas and impractical principles. I agree that the ideology of democratic socialism adopted by Nepali Congress is an ideal political condition where everybody could enjoy full freedom and nobody would suffer from hunger and disease. But I also argue that this ideology is contradictory because democracy and socialism cannot exist simultaneously. If the ideology of democratic socialism had worked, NC would already have made this country an earthly paradise. Practically speaking, democracy and socialism are mutually exclusive, so if one is done, then the other cannot be done.

Likewise, the UML’s guiding ideology - People’s Multiparty Democracy - is also contradictory. The UML leaders say this is a transitional programme that leads to scientific socialism that ultimately develops into communism. I would argue, however, this is simply a linguistic strategy of an eloquent speaker to garner mass support and win the election to form the government. Our political practice has shown that scientific socialism cannot practically be achieved through multiparty competition where capitalist party can easily win the election with their resources. When a resourceless group fights in election with a resourceful one, the latter is sure to win. To claim that this is possible is a false assumption.

This party cannot remain truly Marxist-Leninist if it is involved in practice of conventional democracy of capitalistic nature. Many analysts say UML is practising crony capitalism to serve the interests of comprador class despite being labeled as Marxist-Leninist party. This party has won the election not because this is a communist party but because it has modified itself into a non-communist party. The recently registered CPN-Unified Socialist is not fundamentally different either. As a breakaway offshoot of UML, this party has also reiterated the same political ideologies, principles and methods that are inscribed in People’s Multiparty Democracy. Although any group of people has the sovereign right to form a new party or split from a parent political institution, their move cannot be justified if they do it for a transient cause.

The way individual leaders are being criticised indicates an utter disappointment. The cadres, voters, and well-wishers of the parent party are left with confusion about which party to choose and for what purpose. Most of the party members cannot even distinguish between right and wrong. Voters and well-wishers are frustrated with influential party leaders who are trying to attract them not much by explaining their programmes and policies but by condemning their opponents. It looks like that neither the parent party nor the breakaway faction can convince their followers to organise them to make one powerful party, which ultimately leads to political instability. This is lamentable.

Real unity
One hundred per cent unity within a party is impossible, at least in present situation. Yet, there can be minimal understanding among the leaders and members of the party. The only pivotal point for uniting all the members is the correct political ideology built on common consensus. If the party leaders and cadres really want to unite, then they should sacrifice their self-interest and ponder over the question whether there is any defect in their ideology. The duty of every responsible political thinker, therefore, should be to contribute to restoring internal unity within a party and building common consensus among all parties. United we prosper, divided we perish.

(The author is the chairman of Molung Foundation. bhupadhamala@gmail.com)