Sunday, December 25, 2011

Maybe Communism Has Defamed Dr. Bhattarai

CPN-UML chairman Jhal Nath Khanal has accused Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai of defaming Nepal’s communist movement by, among other things, forming the largest cabinet in the country’s history and packing it with sleazebags.
Addressing a gathering of the party activists in Dharan last week, the former prime minister also accused the Maoist-led government of deviating from its major assignments, such as sending home those Maoist combatants who opted for voluntary discharge. All this, in Khanal’s view, has raised questions about the Maoists’ sincerity in concluding the peace and promulgating the new constitution.
At one level, Maila Baje feels sorry for Khanal, for the kind of inanities he has been reduced to uttering. Communism has been so thoroughly discredited universally that there is little one man – even of Dr. Bhattarai’s caliber – could add. But, then, you have to empathize with the UML chief. In the last test of popular strength, after all, communists in Nepal won nearly two-thirds of the votes cast.
The only way of understanding the contradiction is by recognizing that our heavily splintered communist movement survives in the debris of the ideology’s progressive decay, deepening agony and irrelevance to the human condition. Where it seems to be thriving, it is because of its external label, which is devoid of its internal substance.
In our own context, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the CPN-UML had to repackage itself into a deceptive People’s Multiparty Democracy. It retained a left-of-centre personality that helped all the second- and third-tier besieged commies in Eastern Europe to reinvent themselves as social democrats. The CPN-UML’s first chairman, Manmohan Adhikary, conceded as prime minister that “communism” merely provided a label.
The Maoists had to pander to ethnic, linguistic, regional and other forces to muster collective grievances and magnify them several fold. Sure, the “People’s War” was modeled after the Great Helmsman’s strategy and tactics. But the principal external drivers did not have as their objective the creation of a one-party workers and peasants’ paradise. In the end, the Maoists could not prevail in their principal quest – the abolition of the monarchy – without following the parliamentary parties they had once opposed with equal vigor.
Mao Zedong was too much of a territorially defined mortal to canonize his life and times into any form of a universal ism. In Nepal, Maoism merely became a convenient tool for a motley demolition crew. To remain in power, our Maoists today have had to embody such diverse tendencies as corporatism, Christianity and homosexuality and fuse them into big-tent tolerance while at the same time peddling promises of that ultimate utopia.
True, there are statists today even in the land of the free and the home of the brave who have not given up. In their view, the comrades of yore simply did not do things right. Through several layers of analyses, the drivers of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the czars of Obamaville seek to lure shlubs and sophisticates alike by proffering a sense of direction and moral justification.
The media spinmeisters sanitize what is happening with the ChiComs, almost glorifying the system as a paragon of efficiency in contrast to the gridlock those dead white men bequeathed all those years ago. The Soviet Union is such a distant memory that the free health and education and lifetime employment beckon without a trace of their logical shakiness and practical shoddiness.
Dr. Bhattarai has been at the forefront of peddling precisely that kind of mendacity for so long that sometimes you wonder whether he really still believes what he professes are his beliefs. One is tempted to ask whether it is really communism that has defamed Dr. Bhattarai.