Sunday, September 25, 2011

Who Really Needs A Maoist Split?

With the Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Mohan Baidya factions engaged in a full-throttled war of words, talk of a split in the United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) has become louder. Despite the growing acrimony in their public references to each other, Dahal and Baidya both claim the Maoists will defy Nepalese political convention by remaining united.
Still, the escalating duel has sent reverberations at multiple levels. The cynical school still maintains that the wily Maoists have manufactured another crisis for public consumption while aiming to gain further ground. Regardless of how the infighting ultimately affects the future of the Baburam Bhattarai government, the prime minister will still be complicit in putting the party above everything else.
Let’s take the realist school next. The decision to hand over the keys to the Maoist weapons containers and the four-point pact with the Madhesi alliance to cobble together the ruling coalition are the two things that has infuriated the Baidya faction. It is hard to believe that Dahal and Bhattarai could have pushed through either by keeping the hardliners in the dark. So any bad blood today would have to take account not only grievances accumulating over time but also the shifting alliances of the recent past.
What specific commitments did each faction make and who double-crossed whom? Here, too, the Maoists have only deferred to the personality and patronage-based debilities that are intrinsic to the system they have entered (which, again they had originally vowed to overthrow).
The more disturbing element of the discussion of the latest intra-party rivalry is the one that is being pursued with the greatest seriousness – superficially, though. The fighters in the camps do not support Baidya and his bluster of an armed revolt, we were told right after the keys row erupted. The Maoists have invested too much in the political process – and have become too dependent on its patronage – to do anything but struggle along through peaceful competition.
That narrative seemed to lose its luster pretty quick. Now we are told – including by expatriate conflict experts – that there is a real chance of at least a faction of the Maoists reverting to armed insurgency. Should they do so, one expert warned the other day, all of us should be prepared to bear responsibility.
Maila Baje, as usual, believes that alien hands are getting off too easily here. The external dimensions will define much of the international deliberations on the Maoists. Just consider the following:

* The Indians, who nurtured the Maoists the most during their most lethal years, are having the toughest time dealing with them in their ostensibly defanged form.

* The Chinese, who not only publicly repudiated the local adherents of the Great Helmsman as a stain on his memory but also continued to arm the royal regime until the very end to suppress the rebels, are today seen as the primary beneficiaries of the political rise of the Nepalese Maoists.

* In a span of three years, two American presidents – representing sharply polarized political parties – spared time for Nepalese Maoist prime ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly while still keeping the organization on the terrorism list.

And we’re not even talking about the Europeans who have collectively and individually deployed the Maoists as a tool of autonomous assertiveness. (The international non-government sector has only picked up from where officialdom has chosen to restrain itself.)
So, who really needs our Maoists to split? Given the current goings-on in the party, the one-party Nepali Maoist state that everybody seems to dread might not be so all-round asphyxiating after all.