KATHMANDU, Nov 17: The Unified Communist Party of Nepal -Maoist (UCPN-M) is holding its sixth plenum at a time when the party is bedeviled by growing factionalism and ideological differences.
Unable to reconcile their differences, the top three leaders of the Maoist party - Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Senior Vice-chairman Mohan Baidya and Vice-chairman Dr Baburam Bhattarai -- are presenting separate political documents at the plenum slated for November 21 in Gorkha where over 5,500 party cadres are expected to participate.
Leaders say the sixth plenum will be an important chapter in the history of the Maoist party as it has to settle not only the sharp ideological differences among the top three leaders, but also financial, organizational and other disciplinary issues. “Never before in its history the Maoist party was in such a disarray. Never before the leaders were so confused,” says a senior Maoist leader.
Besides ideological differences, the top three leaders have to surmount the clash of personalities and egos among themselves. At the end of the plenum, Dahal is supposed to synthesize the views of both vice-chairmen and present a single document. But doing so is easier said than done given the seemingly irreconcilable differences among the top leaders and serious allegations leveled against each.
DAHAL ACCUSED OF FINANCIAL NON-TRANSPARENCY
Despite their sharp differences on ideological issues, Bhattarai and Baidya share the same view on handling the party’s finances. In their documents, both have attacked Dahal for handling party’s finances opaquely and protecting “illegal trade, smuggling and corruption.”
Leaders close to Dahal and Baidya have time and again stated that whoever controls the finance also controls the party, and that Dahal has been able to maintain his supremacy due to his monopoly over the party’s financial resources.
They have also held Dahal responsible for the rise of “a new class of nouveau-riche” in the party.
“While on the one hand, the party is ready to spend millions of rupees to buy the votes of the lawmakers, on the other the whole timers have been left without proper food and clothes. It is against the principle of proletariat class character of the party,” Dr Bhattarai has written in his document.
He has argued that the “anarchy, corruption and irregularities” have marred the party and if the trend continues, it will ultimately transform the party into a group of “parasites.”
“The meaningless six-day indefinite strike, the repeated defeat of the chairman in the prime ministerial election, buying of votes of the lawmakers, opaque financial transaction, hobnobbing with the defeated monarchists and reactionaries, and letting other parties lead the government instead of the alternative leadership, have sent negative messages among the people,” Bhattarai has written.
In the last central committee meeting, Bhattarai had also raised the question about the controversial audio-tape in which party leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara allegedly asks a Chinese businessman Rs 50 million to buy the votes of the lawmakers in favor of the party’s prime ministerial candidate Dahal.
Baidya has also explicitly attacked Dahal on the financial issues.
“The issue of amassing properties by the leaders is yet to be dealt with. The culture of maintaining accounts and transparency has almost come to an end,” Baidya states in his document, besides accusing Dahal of protecting illegal trade and corruption.
Baidya has attacked Dahal for not implementing the reports prepared by his Disciplinary Commission and expressed concern over the rise of a new class in the party. “A new class enjoying previliges has come into prominence. Consumerism is writ large in the daily lives and lifestyles of responsible comrades,” Baidya writes.
The growing factionalism in the Maoist party is the reflection of the sharp ideological differences among the top three leaders.
Dahal has accused Baidya of “ultra-leftism” and Bhattarai of “revisionism” within the Maoist movement. Similarly, Baidya has dubbed Dahal´s views “centrist” and Bhattarai´s “revisionist” while Bhattarai has accused Dahal of being a “wily leader on shaky ideological grounds “ and Baidya an “ultra-left adventurist.”
In their documents, both Bhattarai and Baidya have stated that the “centrist” ideological line floated by Dahal is “vague at best and opportunistic in nature.”
Baidya has accused Dahal of submitting to rightist trend, instead of fighting it. Quoting Russian leader Vladimir Lenin, Baidya has termed the “centrist line” led by Dahal more “dangerous and harmful” than the “rightist line” led by Bhattarai. According to him, the centrist line tilts toward either right or left depending on the opportunity and uses the Marxist formula to serve its own vested interests.
Similarly, Baidya has accused Bhattarai of leaking the party’s secrets to media, and Dahal of misusing power to quell his opponents. In his analysis, Dahal is an “opportunist who appears revolutionary in theory and does nothing in practice.”
Similarly, Bhattarai has also sharply criticized Dahal. “The proletariat revolutionaries should relinquish the childish thinking that it would be better to be ultra-leftist than rightist and that being the centrist is better than being either ultra-leftist or rightist,” Bhattrai writes.
Bhattarai labels Baidya a “classical communist” whose thoughts are frozen in the past and who can never come to terms with pragmatic politics, while the latter holds Bhattarai largely responsible for “dragging the party into the dirty waters of multiparty politics.”
If Bhattarai sees Dahal as a man “obsessed with power,” the latter sees Bhattarai as an “opportunist whose ambitions are fueled by India, the local feudal-class and the media.” Bhattarai has stated that Dahal has frequently accused him of conspiring to split the party and snatch the party leadership whenever he held dissenting views.
ISSUE OF PEOPLE’S REVOLT
Baidya sees the party consistently deviating from its revolutionary path and has floated the idea of preparing grounds for an immediate revolt to realize the communist ideological goals. It is also the party-line passed by the Kharipati National Conclave held three years ago.
Though Bhattarai agrees with Baidya that the party should launch a people’s revolt, he has argued that given the international geo-political situation, the party cannot sustain its regime at this juncture even if it succeeds in seizing state power through a revolt. He has argued that the party should try to institutionalize the achievements made so far, push for a constitution in favor of “the people” and go for socio-economic transformation of the country until the international situation turns in favor of communism.
He has stated that the party should lead the government and if the constitution drafting process is disrupted, the party should mount pressure from the government as well as from the street to promulgate a constitution in favor of people.
But Dahal’s position is vague at best. He is for preparing grounds for an immediate revolt and simultaneously pushing for a constitution in favor of people.
Similarly, the three leaders are also at loggerheads over how the party should view India. While Dahal and Baidya want to declare both India and “domestic feudalism” the principal enemy, Bhattarai is for declaring domestic feudalism the principal enemy. The former two leaders say the country cannot achieve the desired change without freeing it from the Indian dominance, while Bhattarai argues that the party should first uproot domestic feudalism.
INTEGRATION AND REHABILITATION OF COMBATANTS
The top three leaders are also at loggerheads over the issue of Integration and Rehabilitation of the combatants. In his document, Dahal has stated that the party leadership had to work hard to save the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from dissolution, and argued that it would be wrong to compromise on the integration issue.
“The mindset that the PLA must be integrated and rehabilitated and constitution written even if it requires compromises will ultimately lead to a surrender to the rightist force,” Dahal writes in his paper.
Bhattarai has also written that the party should not compromise on this issue. “It should firmly stand in favor of scientific integration of the PLA and setting up a national army through timely democratization of the old army,” Bhattarai writes. He has stated that the party should shield the PLA from any attempt of dissolution or humiliation.
However, Baidya has stated that the party deviated from its ideology by declaring an end to the “People’s War.” He has not explicitly put forward his opinion on the issue.
Though the differences among the top leaders look irreconcilable, leaders rule out the possibility of splits in the party. Dahal is supposed to synthesize the documents and prepare a new one at the end of the plenum. “For the sake of prestige, it will be called synthesis. But the chairman has to adopt only one line - either of Baidya or of Bhattarai,” says a central leader.
Bhattarai is close to Dahal and the latter is likely to join hands with Bhattarai in adopting his line of peace and constitution for now as the party can neither go back to war nor launch a revolt immediately.
“As the chairman doesn’t have any clear ideological line of his own, he will adopt Bhattarai’s line and give Baidya faction a lion’s share in the organization for the sake of reconciliation,” says a senior Maoist leader. “And the boarder ideological disputes will be left to the general conventions for settlement.”