Amit Sengupta Kathmandu
Exclusive interview with Baburam Bhattarai in his residence at Ekantkuna (literally, Lonely Corner) in Kathmandu, amid major political churning, hardening of stances across the spectrum and suspense in political circles.
It's been more than a month after the Maoist victory in the Nepal elections, but there seems to be a new crisis emerging every day. Do you think something positive will come out of the post-poll process?
Something positive has to come out. People want change. The traditional forces of the monarchy have been defeated. The people of Nepal want drastic changes - qualitative not quantitative change. The parliamentary parties like the Nepali Congress have no radical agenda. They have once again started making the same noises, after their decisive defeat. Ultimately, there is no option for them but to accept this positive result.
The way parties like the Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) are reacting to the results, clearly reluctant to accept the people's mandate, is this just posturing, or are there real problems?
I don't think so. This happens everywhere. Post-elections, the ruling parties who have taken themselves and their power for granted, when they lose, they obviously create problems. But they won't be successful. We will like to include all the parties.
There are serious problems. These parties are now openly against the integration of the People's Liberation Army (PLA - armed Maoist guerrillas) into the Nepal Army. Even the army top brass is reportedly opposing it.
The PLA's integration in the Nepal Army is part of the peace accord: the Comprehensive Peace Accord. The Nepal Army and the PLA is on an equal footing. Under the mutual agreement between the parties, both the armies have been kept in camps under UN supervision. So how can they oppose the integration of the PLA now? Besides, as agreed in the peace accord, we have always emphasised the democratisation of the Nepal Army. A special security committee will be set up to initiate the process of integration.
Are the other political parties in the 'seven-party alliance' creating obstacles?
Clearly, they are going back on their word. The other mainstream political parties don't have any political or social agenda. They have no agenda of restructuring the State. They have no vision. No roadmap. We had a roadmap. We had a manifesto of socio-economic change. Now they have suddenly woken up after their comprehensive defeat.
The political parties have suddenly created new conditions for power-sharing in the new government led by your party. They want the Maoist-affiliated Young Communist League (YCL) to be dismantled. Do you think it is possible?
They lost the elections. Instead of looking inwards they are manufacturing all kinds of false allegations. They did not have the agenda of the abolition of monarchy earlier; they had no vision of socio-economic change. They had no objectives or vision. Most of them are very corrupt. That is why they were rejected by the people. Almost 60 per cent of our winning candidates are young people, including those below 40-year-old. So how can we throw away the youth who fought for us, or voted for us?
Was there intimidation during the polls?
You can't force people to vote. In remote areas as in Kathmandu, people have overwhelmingly voted for us. They have voted for us in big urban areas like Biratnagar and Pokhara. We won because the people voted for us. These charges of intimidation of voters are totally ridiculous. Even now, the stories they are splashing on the YCL are local disputes. These disputes happen all the time.
There are allegations by the parties that the land captured by the Maoists are not being returned to the owners.
Peasants have occupied the land during the long peasant struggle. Tilling the land is their legitimate right. We will set up a comprehensive commission to usher in scientific land reforms. We will see to it that no injustice is done to anyone.
Will you have great difficulty in pushing your agenda once you are in the government: land reforms, for instance?
We don't think these are difficulties. There are challenges. Our socio-economic agenda is driven against feudalism and monarchy. We have to create a democratic republic. In this struggle between bourgeois politics and Maoist revolutionary politics, for us this is a stage of bourgeois democratic revolution led by a proletarian party. We will have to do radical land reforms.
Can you be more specific? What kind of challenges do you foresee?
Political challenges. All remnants of feudalism will have to be eliminated. We will have to launch a political struggle. Besides, economic development is a challenge. Nepal is
predominantly an agrarian-based economy, semi-feudal and semi-colonial in nature. We will have to initiate progressive reforms, create the basis of industrial capitalist relations. There has to be national equality. Lenin and Mao did revolutionary changes during their specific stages in history. As I said, this is a national bourgeois democratic revolution. We can't jump from one stage of history to another just like that. We understand the theory of the classical Marxist text. We can't just jump from feudalism to socialism.
First, we have to completely do away with feudalism. We call it the 'New Transitional Economic Policy'. It sounds like the NEP (New Economic Policy) of Lenin, but it is not the same in content and character. We want to make 'Public-Private Partnerships'. The State will take the lead in this initiative. For instance, education and health will be under the State sector. There can be private initiatives in other sectors. We will appreciate and accept Foreign Direct Investment. We have to increase productivity, build infrastructure. Nepal's economic base is very week. We have to build extensive road and railway networks. There is a big potential of water resources and energy. We will invite investments in infrastructure, also foreign direct investment. We can finance ourselves, the small and medium projects. But for big projects, we need investment. For instance, tourism can grow under public-private partnership.
How do you understand the relevance of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism?
This is a science. It has to be creatively applied. There are certain universal principles, but there has to be specific national creativity and characteristics. There can be no dogmatic application.
How is Marxism still relevant in this era of neo-liberal globalisation, especially in the context of the Latin American experiments?
I don't see any other alternative philosophy or ideology to change the world. Where is it? As Rosa Luxembourg said, the choice is between socialism and barbarism. What you have in Iraq and Afghanistan is barbarism. If the Left can't provide the path of socialism, people will choose religious fundamentalism to resist imperialism. The Latin American experiments are positive developments.
You left the armed struggle to join the peace process. How do you look at this turning point?
We have not left the armed struggle. We were the ones who fought against feudalism and monarchy. We wouldn't be here without the armed struggle - if we did not have an armed army. It's a fusion of bullet and ballot.
We joined the peace process. If you are a democrat, you should accept the people's verdict. The people have accepted us. Now, they (the other political parties, namely, NC and UML) are being dishonest and undemocratic, clinging to power by hook or crook.
Do you think Nepal's Rightwing has made a comeback through a section of conservative Madhesi forces?
They will try and they have tried hard, but they will not be successful. It is not a monolith. There are different, heterogeneous formations. Radical forces like the Maoists have also done well in Madhes. Ultimately, the Left will triumph.
The US still brands the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) as terrorist. Does it worry you?
These are geopolitical compulsions of a big imperialist power. We have to be rational. They are trying to accept the reality, the objective reality. As for the terrorist tag - it is up to them to choose what they want. Even today they have issued an ambivalent statement that what they actually meant was different, that this was not a terrorist tag. We were never terrorists. We want to have diplomatic relations with one and all - all countries. We are here to socially transform Nepal and we will have relations with every nation which can help benefit the people of Nepal.
Do you think the Nepal army and others opposed to the Maoists will follow the protocol before and after the government led by the Maoists is formed?
The Nepal Army will follow the protocol. They will have to follow. Certain reactionary elements will try to influence the army, but they will not be successful.
How do you view India's role during and after the peace process in the current scenario?
India's role has been very positive during the last two years, during the peace process and during and after the elections. On issues such as the open border, we can sit and talk. The main thing is there should be peace and stability.
An open border with India. Can the European Union model be applied here?
The open border is not a big advantage, not even to India. The European Union: what is their stage of development? How can they be compared with Nepal with its low level of development? Mostly, the open border is unregulated. There are big smuggling networks. I would argue that the open border has to be properly managed.
What kind of a model of democracy do you visualise in Nepal? Can the Indian model be followed here?
Democracy is basically defined as 'of, by and for the people'. It depends on how we redefine it, or how the people will rule in a class-divided society. Indian democracy is replete with deep social inequities and poverty and it is for the Indian people to define it. Switzerland, France, Norway and Sweden have their own models of democracy. We have the right to choose and have our own model of democracy. We have an open mind. Why only, for instance, a Westminster model?
What is your assessment of the Parliamentary Indian Left, and the overground and underground Naxalite movement?
There are many trends in the Left. There is the moderate, reformist trend. Then there is the radical, revolutionary trend, and armed struggle. In Nepal we are free to choose what is suited for our needs. It is for the Indian people to decide which Left trend they want to choose.
Do you think the king will go?
The king has to leave. Or else he will be kicked out. If he is sane enough, he must go.