The story of a failed revolutionBy taking the oath as prime minister of Nepal for the second time, Prachanda has not just proved that he is made of the same clay as most of his predecessors were but has also hammered the final nail into the coffin of the communist revolution that he started.
By taking the oath as prime minister of Nepal for the second time, Prachanda has not just proved that he is made of the same clay as most of his predecessors were but has also hammered the final nail into the coffin of the communist revolution that he started.
The Maoist revolution need not have been a failed project, though. Eight years ago, when Prachanda first became the prime minister of Nepal, the air was so thick with hope and anticipation that one could almost chew on it. Under his leadership, a bunch of communist guerillas who had started their armed struggle from the rugged, inhospitable hinterlands of Nepal had not just marched their way into the power corridors of the country but had brought to an end the feudal institution that had exercised its might over people for centuries (all the while enriching itself).
The dragnet of a decade-long armed struggle that ensnared many into its abyss had finally given way to expectations of a better future. There were talks of establishing the rule of law, ending corruption and nepotism at the top, uplifting lives of Dalits and minorities at the bottom and ending all sorts of discriminations and prejudices in existence. Lending credibility to the excitement was Prachanda’s own background. After all, he was the son of a farmer who had studied agriculture to serve rural, agrarian population in an agrarian country. How could he be lying? He was a dyed-in-the-wool janatako choro, wasn’t he?
But now that all the hopes and dreams sold to the people by the Maoists have been quashed (not unlike what happened in the past) and the true nature of their political deceit has been revealed, we are left to ponder the aftermath of a failed revolution. What happens after an unsuccessful uprising? Does it bolster the status quo that regards the failure as a vindication of its rule? Or does it pave the way for a new power to emerge?
German Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin tried to answer this question nearly a century ago. He saw failed revolutions of the late 19th and early 20th century Europe as the harbinger of fascism. Be it in Germany, Spain or Italy, the failure of the working class to seize power through struggles had led to the rise of demagogues who turned their countries into right-wing, ultranationalist dictatorships. This was
true not just in case of Europe, which was hurtling towards the Second World War when Benjamin was active, but proved to be so for countries around the world, especially those in the Middle East and Africa.
This does not apply to Nepal, though. Democracy, though not without challenges, became the political currency in the region, including Nepal, after the yoke of colonial rule (or Panchayat in our case) was supplanted by the will of the people. But although the system of governance might have changed, the mindset of our ruling class, by and large, has remained the same, i.e., in a new political climate, they have became the overlords of the country.
Thus despite a succession of revolutions and struggles carried out by the Nepali people (the Maoist revolution being one of them), the situation has not changed for better. Our common fate now has to do more with corrupt, intransigent politicians than wrong systems in play. Cunning of words, slippery of actions and rapacious for power, Prachanda, despite his credo, is no different from the breed of political leadership that has ruled over the country since the democratic revolution of 1990.
So if we are to seek the answer to the question above, all we have to do is look around us and try to feel the interminable inertia and helplessness, punctuated only by occasional outcries and changes at the top, that the leaders have dragged the country into (all the while profiting from their positions). Here, one failed revolution begets another, periodically, in a seemingly never-ending loop.
As Langston Hughes says in Harlem:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
We have become both the progenies and begetters of dreams deferred. For us, revolutions do not end old orders but rather give rise to those who perpetuate them in a new way. They give birth not to heroes and martyrs and self-sacrificing, honest leaders but to thugs, butchers and robbers who steal in broad daylight. To quote Hughes, our dreams sag on us “like a heavy load”. All we do is transfer that load from one generation to another. Our dreams, for us, have become a never-ending burden.