Committed to Social Democracy...
FES in Nepal
FES Worldwide
Media Development
Trade Union Development
Regional Cooperation
Conflict Resolution
Good Governance
Past Activities
FES in the Press
Annual Reports
Seminar/Workshop Reports
List of FES Publications
Book Reviews
FES Publications in University Curricula

In Defence Of Social Democracy

Why Social Democracy for Nepal?

Editor: Meena Acharya

Published Year: 2013

Published by: Tanka Prasad Acharya Memorial Foundation (TPAMF) & Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

ISBN: 9789937262347

Price: Not mentioned, Pages: 126



Regular crisis in liberal democracy and downfall of classical communist system created a ground for the evolution of moderate political system, e.g. social democracy or democratic socialism in the world. Social democracy advocates for peaceful transition of society from capitalism to socialism. However, it has its roots in classical Marxism out of which emerged two schools of socialism. One group embraced peaceful line of Marxism and became social democrat, and another one went to advocate pure Marxism or scientific socialism. Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg followed revolutionary course. To the contrary, Edward Bernstein and Karl Kautsky adopted evolutionary and reformist path and developed Marxism into social democratic thought.

The idea of social democracy has gained ground in Nepal for various reasons. Gauging from results of erstwhile Constituent Assembly polls, majority of electorates here support communist parties that have knowingly or unknowingly embraced social democracy because their ideologies, policies and political programming unmistakably reflect it even though one may question their weak allegiance to their declared principles. Even the non-left parties have developed their unique penchant towards socialism, making the country a fertile place to experiment the principles of social democracy. Giving a momentum to social democracy debate, Tanka Prasad Acharya Memorial Foundation and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung joined hands to bring out the present book that contains scholarly papers of six writers - Chaitanya Mishra, Meena Acharya, Dev Raj Dahal, Madhuri Singh, CD Bhatta and Meena Poudel on the very topic.

Mishra, in his write-up 'Why Social Democracy in Nepal Now?' present himself as the strong advocate of social democracy. He defines it as one in which capital, labour and the state become partners in an evolving and contradiction-prone compact. "In a social democratic set-up, social justice is given an edge in several ways. Universal ownership of and access to a minimal set of private and public political, economic and cultural resources is a prerequisite to effective citizenship in the social democratic set-up. It insists on universalized economic, political and cultural enablement, reduces the level of barriers to effective citizenship, selfhood and self-respect faced by various subordinated and marginalised groups, e.g. women, Dalits, marginalised ethnic and regional groups and so forth."

Mishra argued that given the diverse constituencies among and within the major political parties, social democracy is, at least for the present, the only possible common political ground both in relation to political parties as well as the electoral distribution across the right-left-communist divide. "It is an appropriate historical moment to adopt an evolutionary and gradual initiative towards social democracy," he added.

Mishra's article is thought-provoking and highly intellectual but not without certain ideological flaws. He views that it is only the Left, with whom lies the responsibility of applying social democracy in Nepal. He simply forgets the fact that there are supporters of social democracy even within the centre and rightist parties. A few months ago, some factional groups in the mainstream parties hived off into splinter groups on the ethnic line and baptised their names with the word of 'socialism.' This is because their rank-and-file members have their strong fascination towards this term. Nepal's Left, the centre, ethnic and regional forces collaborated on the wider platform of republicanism, federalism and secularism. So, why could they not come together to realise social democracy? Another fundamental slip-up in his writing is use of the word 'class struggle' that he argued should be intensified by the social democrats to advance their cause. This goes against the grain of very social democracy philosophy. Its ideological founders Bernstein and Kautsky deeply disagreed with Lenin's instruments of class struggle and dictatorship of proletariat to establish socialism in Russia. Social democracy believes in peaceful transformation of society with focus on reasoned debates, reconciliation and consensus-based decisions.

Dahal's 'Social security in social democracy: Gender perspective' goes further in the defence of social democracy. He says, "It seeks social justice at ecological, social, gender and inter-generational level and supports reciprocity across various spaces, and beefs up the state's role in supporting the weaker sections of society by offering affirmative measures, positive discrimination, adequate social security and social protection of women, making them real stakeholders in democracy. According to him , social democracy seeks to dismantle traditional role models for women by changing the structures that confined women to the ascribed status through the democratisation of parties, polity, economy, the state and international relations, aiming to negotiate a new social contract at multiple-level governance.

In her essay 'The question of women under the political systems', Acharya says that both the liberal democracy and Marxism are not adequate to explain women's subordination. "Major common basic factor underlining this inadequacy in both the system is invisibility of women's work and its social significance for the society. One-sided emphasis on the market and production of exchange value is leading to welfare crisis for the poor, the women and the children," she stated. She also vouches for social democracy, saying that it recognises the historicity of the social development and possibility of a better social order whereby opportunities of exploitation by on individual or groups by others are minimised.

Bhatta dwells on social security system and its challenges and opportunities in Nepal. He is of the opinion that the future of Nepal's social security system largely depends on the type of state and economic policy and programmes it adopts. "Perhaps, the social market economy, a third way, between the Anglo- Saxon oriented Washington Consensus-based development strategy which Nepal has practiced so far, and recently advocated model (which is largely adopted by China) built on state control can contribute better towards this end. It will reduce the income gap between the rich and the poor, strike political balance across the left-right divide and foster state-society harmony."

The writers of all essays have missed to answer a vital question: Why can social democracy and robust security system be applied in Nepal that is reeling under abject penury and economic dependency? Marred by mismanaged market economy and political patronism, the country is struggling to come out of prolonged transition. Despite its poor capacity, its interim statute has incorporated many rosy contents of social democracy into it. Before embarking on the path of social democracy, the country must have basic economic and constitutional infrastructures in place for that end. The present book will definitely stir a debate on the wider prospect of social democracy in Nepal. Our politicians, academics and policy makers should be encouraged to participate in this debate so that they will chart out social democracy friendly political and economic frameworks while writing the new constitution.

Source: Friday Supplement, The Rising Nepal (4 October 2013)

Copyright©2001. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Nepal Office
The information on this site is subject to a
disclaimer and copyright notice.