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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nepal: interview with Dr Baburam Bhattarai

From Republica;

Maoist Vice-Chairman Dr Baburam Bhattarai is an ideologue and one of the brains behind the 10-year-long Maoist insurgency in Nepal. The Maoist party is currently undergoing sharp ideological differences among Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Senior Vice-Chairman Mohan Baidya and Bhattarai.

The party is having a tough time forging a common "action-plan" for implementation in the peace process as the top three leaders are at loggerheads over the party's future course of action. Republica journalist Post B Basnet caught with him on Saturday and talked about the role of his party in the peace process.

What is your party currently engaged in?

Right now our party is engaged in institutionalizing the progressive changes in society while passing through a historical transitional phase of evolution of autocracy, feudalism and institutionalization of modern industrial state based on multi-party democratic polity. This transition has its complications. But, as a responsible political party, we are still trying to find a way out amidst the presence of bourgeois democratic forces who believe in parliamentary democracy and us, communist revolutionaries, who believe in people's democracy. We are trying to find a common meeting ground where we can institutionalize a democratic system in which the oppressed masses will have their participation in the state in a new socio-economic and federal structure.

There are sharp ideological differences between you, Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Mohan Baidya. Are you facing an ideological dilemma?

In every political party, there are political debates. If there is no debate, you can't have a vibrant political party, and especially in a communist party debate on ideological political questions are always there. We believe in dialectical materialism and unity of opposites. Unity, struggle, and transformation give impetus to the development process. So, accordingly, our party is also a vibrant entity and there is a constant struggle between various opinions. But, ultimately, we are united on one issue: That we need overall restructuring of the Nepali state and society. To achieve that objective, we launched people's war and we have already seen the results in the form of republicanism, federalism and secularism. These are positive gains. These gains need to be preserved. We still have to struggle to institutionalize a democratic system whereby the oppressed classes of people, nationalities, regions, gender, oppressed caste will also have their say. We are trying to figure out the correct path within the party to achieve them.

There is also the question of doing away with the remnants of feudalism and autocracy in different spheres of state and society. Since the days of Sugauli Treaty, our economy, state and society have been subjugated. So we want to do away with such domination and reassert total sovereignty and national independence. We need to settle the dispute on whether we want to give priority to democracy or nationalism.

Let's talk about the party. The Palungtar plenum failed to take any political line. What do you have to say?

No, this is not a question of failing. We had a real good democratic exercise; 7,000 people gathered for seven days and engaged in constructive political debates and that itself was a big achievement. It has created a basis for achieving a higher unity within the party and clarifying the political lines. In that sense, the Palungtar plenum was very useful and historical and we have taken a unified view that the current path of peace, constitution-making and democracy should be pursued and to make it a success we need to mobilize the masses from the streets as well. Reactionary and status quo-ist forces don't want progressive changes in the society. So, to exert pressure on them, we need to mobilize the masses. On this issue, the party is unified.

What's the difference between people's revolt floated by you, Dahal and Baidya?

We have every right to revolt against injustice; Mahatma Gandhi called it civil disobedience, some call it a revolt, while others call it a revolution. They are the same thing. We want change in society. So, if this process of change is blocked, people have the right to revolt against that, this is the general political philosophy. In that sense, we want to pursue the path of peace and democracy. But if that path is blocked, people have the right to resist and revolt. This is a general formulation and so we have no fundamental dispute on this.

This is your view. But there are fundamental differences between you and Baidya on this issue?

No, I don't think there are fundamental differences. The only question is whether the objectives, political goals we accept and our party accepts could be achieved through peaceful and democratic means, and whether the reactionary forces will allow it. On the question of evaluation, there are some differences. Even then we all agreed on principles that we should pursue.

What's the difference?

The difference is whether we should pursue this process (the current peaceful path) till the end. And if it is blocked, people should realize that we will have to take another path. Only when the general masses realize, a "people's movement" becomes successful. If the people don't realize, the current path is no longer viable and possible. They won't come out onto the streets in protest.

But Baidya is calling for an end to the ongoing process?

Nobody is saying that indeed. The difference lies only in assessments. What I am stressing is that on our part we should make sincere efforts till the end. We should patiently pursue and try our best till the end to make a new constitution and complete the peace process. But, side by side, we need to empower the masses. We have to mobilize the masses again, in case this path fails. Then the people will rise in a "people's movement" and give impetus to this development process. I have been stressing this aspect. Some of the comrades are saying this path has already morally exhausted by now. The way the peace process has developed in the last two years has given an impression that there is no chance of this path moving ahead in a positive direction. So, maybe, now this is high time we really prepared for the other path. There are differences only on what we have stressed. Otherwise, on the fundamental path to be followed for change in society, there is no difference at all.

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