MC and UML couldn’t come together on Lenin’s birth anniversary but May 5, Marx’s 200th birth anniversary, is coming upApril 22, the birth anniversary of Vladimir Lenin and the founding day of the Nepal Communist Party, has passed. This was the proposed date of unification of CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Centre). But leaders from both parties suggest that even though unification did not occur on the said date, the parties will eventually come together.
April 22, the birth anniversary of Vladimir Lenin and the founding day of the Nepal Communist Party, has passed. This was the proposed date of unification of CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Centre). But leaders from both parties suggest that even though unification did not occur on the said date, the parties will eventually come together. Tika R Pradhan talked to Maoist leader and Party Unity Coordination Committee (PUCC) member Narayan Kaji Shrestha on the issues delaying the unification process.
Your party Chairman, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has said that there are some contentious issues that are blocking the party unification. Has the process stalled?
There is no truth to the speculation that the unification process has stalled, or that the vision of the two unifying parties is not aligned. The parties will unify, and soon. Of course, combining the ideology of two separate communist parties and accommodating the history and struggles of both is never easy. But the fact remains that we embarked on this path because we share a common vision for the future and we will make sure this process will end in unification. The parties have chosen and submitted specific philosophies and ideologies that they wish to be incorporated into the unified party. The unification committee has also discussed the issue. Now, we have given the responsibility of finalising the modality of unification to the two party chairpersons [Dahal and PM Oli]. The leadership of the two parties will have a great role to play in the unification process.
April 22 was the initial date pegged for official unification, because it marks the anniversary of the People’s Movement-II. But we could not complete the process because, though many of the items on the agenda have been finalised, a few issues remain outstanding. Now, a proposition has been made to officially unify on another historic day, which could be May 1 (Labour Day) or May 5, which is Marx’s 200th birth anniversary. I cannot specify a date with certainty yet.
There are speculations of three issues on the agenda that are delaying the process: the role of the two leaders in the unified party, the modality of them working together and the election symbol to be used.
It has been decided that the two leaders will share the top posts in the unified party equally. The way in which they will share responsibilities and the decision-making modality is currently being reasoned through. Whatever roles, responsibilities that the two leaders decide to share, and any principles that are adopted by the unified party will only be applicable until the party’s first general convention.
Does the Maoist Centre want division of all leadership positions on a 50:50 ratio?
Yes. Unification requires mutual respect and the absorption of the principles of both parties equally. We have already agreed align our principles. No serious opposition has been expressed by in regards to this modality of unification. Having said that, when unifying on mutual respect and by incorporating the principles of both parties, there is no need to talk about the ratio of inclusion.
The UML has reportedly been opposed to including and acknowledging the ‘people’s war’ as a term in the unified party’s statute while your party wants this included. Is there a way out?
Whether in Nepal or globally, the role of the ‘people’s war’ will be debated for many more years to come. However, no one can deny that the ‘people’s war’—along with the People’s Movement of 2006—was instrumental in eventually bringing about a federal democratic republic system in Nepal. The UML too has accepted this. The only question remains is how and where to include it in the statue of the unified party.
What about the contention over the election symbol?
A symbol has to be easily distinguished, and so picking a symbol that respects the feelings of both parties and is recognisable would be ideal. If the question of election symbols becomes a source of major dispute, then a compromise can reached. There is a talk of incorporating the hammer and sickle within the sun. Coming up with an entirely new symbol is also a possibility. Concerns have also arisen about the possibility of both the symbols being discarded. If we were to discard both our electoral symbols, and other parties were to pick them up, it could be a major problem for future electoral recognition. But we must not overly focus on these possibilities.
Another issue that has allegedly cropped up is that, if the general convention of the unified party fails to elect Prachanda as chairperson, he has asked for the PM’s berth. Is this true?
We have asked for no such thing post-convention.
If the Maoists do not get to incorporate their election symbol, do not get to keep ‘people’s war’ in the party statute and do not get the Prime Minister’s berth, will the party go for unification?
The unification of the two parties has been a conscious design to unify communist principles and our past in order to chart out a new destiny. It was not a simple afterthought that followed the formation of an alliance between the two parties in order to secure an electoral victory. Before, the Maoists were fighting to incorporate a new republic system with identity representation.
Now, the system in place is very near what we wanted as a party, even if it is not exactly what we envisioned. The people have asked for development, stability and prosperity through socialism, and this unification will help us to fulfil their demands.
The unified party will fulfil its objectives as demanded by the people. To unify and to fulfil our objectives, neither can we negate or erase comrade Oli’s platform, nor can we forget the principles and history of the Maoists. We are not overly focused on the technical aspects of unification. Our main focus is on whether we can fulfil the needs and demands of the Nepali people.
Are there any other issues, besides the ones mentioned above, that are proving to be roadblocks to unification?
There are no major issues of contention. But a great debate will continue, even post-unification. The UML has been supporting a Marxist-Leninist ideology, while the Maoists have focused on Maoism, and yet also agree with Marxist-Leninist thought. So, for now, we have no contentions with raising a common banner under Marxism-Leninism. However, we also understand that there is a need to modify this ideology to fit Nepal’s current context and need. It is important to respect issues pertaining to development, industry, consequences of hydro-electricity, etc. when developing ideology. We also need to look at our past, and the past of other communist revolutions, to see where the weaknesses lay so we can strengthen our ideology.
We also have to focus on the question of prosperity. We need to debate and discuss three aspects of prosperity. All intellectuals, academics, organisations and stakeholders have to be included in this debate. Discussions have to focus on the type of model to adopt in Nepal to bring about prosperity, the ways we can work with the adopted model to achieve desired results, and who is the intended recipient of prosperity.
Talk has been focused on accommodating the two top leaders of UML and MC, but how will the next level of leaders be accommodated in the unified party?
Unification is about consolidating the strength of the two parties. To achieve this, each and every leader and cadre has to be utilised. They have to be given responsibilities that play to their strengths. Leaving out some leaders or cadres will not amount to strengthening the party.
The Biplav-led and Mohan Baidya-led communist factions are rumoured to be unifying soon as well. If party members are not happy with the unification process between CPN-UML and CPN-MC, what is the likelihood of members defecting to that side of the fence?
Contentions and differences arise within every society or group from time to time. However, we have provided a solid platform of development and prosperity through socialism, and have decided on a common vision for the future. I do not believe people will defect. If party members think that the process of unification has been biased, maybe there is room for doubts to arise. But as it stands, if members of the party believe in bringing prosperity to the people with the use of socialism as a platform, there is no reason to worry. Wherever unification is a possibility, we applaud it. But what I would tell Baidya and Biblav is that they should join our cause and unify into one communist party.
You said that it is important to give everyone responsibility in the unified party. However, Oli has been accused of making unilateral decisions, whether in the transfer of secretaries in government or allegedly pushing aside Madhav Kumar Nepal in the UML.
All leaders have their strengths and their weaknesses. The main thing is to strengthen the party. In this process, we might have to help some leaders adjust their ways. What I would like to mention is that completing unification will not be the cure-all for all issues. Contentions will be raised as pertains to the party or the nation. Just as we had to have a lot of discussions to reach an agreement to form the left alliance and move towards unification, issues will crop up when we implement strategies for development. The main goal here is to persevere to provide prosperity through socialism.
People have said that Oli bowed down during his recent visit to India. What is the view of Maoist Centre?
Perhaps people that held extremely high expectations from this trip were slightly disappointed. We held realistic expectations, and have no issues with how the PM handled the visit. A lot of people may have been disappointed because everything Oli discussed has not come out in public. People wonder whether he raised issues such as updating the 1950 treaty with India or solving problems in the Power Trade Agreement between the two countries. But as far as I understand, and from what the PM has told us, he did discuss these things with his Indian counterpart.