Looking at Political Issues from Democratic
Organised by Centre for Consolidation of
24 December 2010
Ritu Raj Subedi
The Rising Nepal
Social democracy is emerging as a consensus
ideology among the Nepalese political parties. Capitalism could
never come out of its boom-bust cycle while the classical form
of communism has lost its relevance. The former lacked social
justice and equitable distribution of national income and latter
suffers from democratic deficit. In that sense, social democracy
could be an ideal path. It is free from the shortcomings of both.
And the Nepalese parties - either left or democrat- have their
ideological root in social democracy that has cherished goals
of justice, freedom, equality and solidarity.
Nepali Congress, the oldest democratic party,
has officially assumed socialism though it has deviated from
it in crucial mode. The Communist Parties of Nepal - big and
small- have fought for democracy for several times although
non-Left forces questioned their democratic credential time
to time. If they constantly engage on political debate, they
can churn out common socio-political programmes based on broader
framework of social democracy as the nation is passing through
rapid political transformations.
With the view of advancing political engagement,
Central for Consolidation of Democracy (CCD) in collaboration
with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal, invited leader-cum intellectuals
representing the three major parties - UCPN-Maoist, NC and CPN-UML
at a seminar 'Debate on Contemporary Political Issues: Democratic
Socialist Perspective,' in Lalitpur on December 24. The meet
offered a rare opportunity for the participants to listen the
viewpoints of the different speakers on the same theme. UCPN-Maoist
leader Devendra Poudel 'Sunil', CPN-UML's Dr. Bijaya Kumar Poudel
and NC's Dr. Yagya Adhikari presented their working papers.
Despite their hostile position in the national politics, they
tried to apply socialist approach in defining the political
change and process in the country.
CCD chairman and vice-chairman of National
Planning Commission Dr. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel said that
the seminar aimed at building common agenda during transition.
"We want that all sides emerge winner
in post conflict society. For this, consensus and collaboration
is only path that we should follow," said Dr. Pokharel.
He said that many nations had witnessed economic
progress after emerging from conflict but Nepal could not do
so. "We should identify as to why we failed to seize economic
Dev Raj Dahal, head of FES-Nepal, said that
where there was massive poverty; democracy remained weak and
where the middle class was weak, instability continued to surface.
"In Nepal, the concerns of a huge segment
of population have not been addressed. This class is in-between,"
said Dahal, who is also a political scientist.
He called for ensuring inter-generational,
social and gender justices but the nation is lacking the governance
system to deliver justice to them.
Highlighting the principles of FES, he noted
that it is a German political foundation that promotes freedom,
social justice, solidarity and peace.
Drawing the differences among democratic socialism,
liberalism and conservative ideology, he said that social democracy
stresses on social justice, liberalism on freedom and conservative
focused on system.
Professor Dr. Lok Raj Baral said that democracy
alone was not enough.
"There must be social justice.
However, governance system and order are more important for
successfully executing the social and economic programmers,"
Dr. Baral said that the political leaders
should develop culture of consensus and work for social justice.
CCD vice-chairman Dr. Yagya Adhikari
said that the democratic socialism could be the common path
of three major parties.
Stating that NC deviated from socialism under
the whim of globalization and market economy, Dr. Adhikari said
that if the leftist forces gave up their dogmatic views of the
past, an excellent opportunity had come before them to guide
the nation towards democratic socialism.
CCD director Sumit Sharma said that there
was the need to define socialism through political, social and
Stressing on consensus to bring about radical
changes in the country, he urged the left forces to pursue democratic
Professor Baral chaired the first session.
UCPN-Maoist politburo member Devendra Poudel
'Sunil,' presenting his working paper 'Political Change in Nepal
and Selection of Social Justice,' tried to sum up the political
changes spanning from 1950 to the overthrowing of monarchy in
Sunil interpreted the political developments
from the Maoist perspective, which the participants, mostly
NC sympathizers, found difficult to reconcile.
Nonetheless, the idea of socialism, democracy
and social justice offered a meeting point between the speaker
and the participants.
The Maoist leader said basically, there are
two types of socialisms - evolutionary and scientific.
"Non-Marxists have generally adopted
evolutionary socialism while the Marxists assumed scientific
or revolutionary socialism. In order to ensure social justice,
the nature of state should minimum be socialist-oriented,"
"In our context," he said, "social
justice meant to end the economic, social, religious, cultural,
linguistic, caste-based, gender-based and region-based oppressions."
Sunil said that goods and services
could be distributed fairly in the society if the rule of law
and pro-people concepts of social justice were implemented.
"This will also bring an end to social and economic inequalities,
and establish cordial and collaborative relations in the society."
He said that during transition 'justice' had
been confined to money and discrimination between dalit and
non-dalit had not come over.
The Maoist leader noted that although the
political parties had differences over the form of governance
in the new statute, they could come together to empower people,
whose control on and surveillance of the state was essential
to make the state accountable to the people.
Social Democracy, a gradual process
Commenting his paper, sociologist Dr. Chaitanya
Mishra said that it stressed on realising the concept of social
justice along with constitution and peace building processes.
"It is necessary to link social justice
with the political transformation that the country is passing
through," said Dr. Mishra.
He, however, offered his own insights on the
country's left and social democratic movement instead of making
elaborative comments on Sunil's dissertation.
Dishing out his thought-provoking views, he
said that the left movement has swept the nation and one must
be left if s/he fights for the cause of social justice. "One
can't be social democratic until s/he becomes a left."
"Social democracy," he defines,"
is a way of carrying out class struggle within the system."
He said that social democracy could not be
established overnight through revolution.
"It is a gradual process and may take even two or three
generations for it to take root in the society."
Stating that ultra-nationalism would be detrimental
to the small nation like Nepal characterized by multi-ethnic
and multi-linguistic groups, the democratic republic that the
nation had been ushered in had given the birth to citizen.
Dr. Mishra pinned his hope on new generation,
which he said, was self-motivated and self-reliant, which had
capacity to sustain the capitalistic production relation.
"It enjoys longevity of life, is well
informed and well-equipped."
He said that the Nepalese were coming out
of agriculture and shifting towards the city.
Dr. Mishra said that Nepal had witnessed the
rise of capitalism whose mode of production was revolutionary
and better than feudalism. "It holds potential to ensure
He said that an unprecedented opportunity
had come before the nation for economic growth as it was under
pressure from the two big neighbours with their rising prosperity.
Comments from the floor
Some participants criticized Sunil saying
his paper undermined the glorious history of Nepal. They also
expressed their reservation over the Maoists' paradoxical position:
on one hand, they recognize multi-party democracy but on the
other, they refused to mention pluralism in the new statute.
"Many of us have faulty approach to see
the Nepalese history. They look down the acts of Prithvi Narayan
Shah, unifier of Nepal. The similar figures in Europe and elsewhere
are greatly honoured," Peshal Niraula said and added that
unification meant the expansion of territory.
Stating that the political leaders needed
to revisit history, Niraula urged all to respect the icons of
Nepalese history. He also argued to change the mindset to evaluate
Jung Bahadur and Mahendra.
Bishwo Hari Koirala said that Sunil's Poudel
undermined the role of NC in 1950 revolution.
A student noted that the Maoists did not recognize
pluralism although they accepted multiparty democracy.
Lal Babu Yadav said that the state had legitimate
rights on collecting taxes but some non-state elements had also
raised taxes on their own.
Stating that democracy should be based on
ideology, not on biology, he noted that there was tendency of
giving up the integrity of the state and adopting the regionalism.
He also suggested for framing a short and
smart statute based on consensus as its deadline is coming closer.
Bharat Raj Poudel said that Sunil's paper
lacked clarity on achieving social justice.
He also accused the Maoist leader of deflating
"Hindu barnashram system, which calls
for happiness of all, has not come to an end," he added.
Mrigendra Karki said that the seminar kept
mum on how to deliver justice to dalits, madhesis and women.
"It is concentrated to a limited people of Kathmandu. The
organizer needs to devise a methodology to ensure justice for
the disadvantaged groups."
Babu Ram Shrestha said that the final destination
of democratic socialism and social democracy was the same, and
the experts should find common ground so that both streams of
ideology operated side by side.
Ananda Santoshi Rai asked as to how social
democracy could be applied in the Nepalese context.
One participant contradicted with the view
of Mishra that one could not be social democrat without being
He also collided with Mishra idea that Nepalese
youths had become stronger.
"The youths have been deprived of opportunities
provided by the state and are weak," he claimed.
Yuva Raj Pandey said that the Maoists were
trying to carve out federalism based on ethnicity, which he
said would generate conflict instead of harmony.
Lawyer Dinesh Tripathy said that without loktantra
and press freedom, social democracy could not function.
He was of the view that the market dynamism
and selective intervention of the state needed to be recognized.
Replies to the Queries
In his response, Sunil said that Hindu barnashram
(caste-based) system meted out injustice to dalits, women and
The idea of prerogative has been adopted to bring the backward
communities into the mainstream of development.
"There should be equal distribution of
faculties provided by the state," he added.
He called for respecting the views of each
other. "If we put the nation and the people at the centre,
every problem could be solved. The political parties can find
common points on building school, road, and hospital,"
He also pointed out the need to be free from individualism and
Mishra reiterated that the youth generation
had become strong. "Their departure to foreign land in
search of job is a rational response to rising capitalism."
He also invoked dialecticism of Marx to interpret
the different stages of social and political developments.
"Every thing has its beginning and end.
Like other things, capitalism will also perish one day."
CCD vice-chairman Dr. Yagya Adhikari and UML
leader Dr. Bijay Kumar Poudel presented their working papers
in the second session of the seminar chaired by CCD executive
member Ganesh Adhikari.
TU professor Dr. Upendra Koirala and economist
Dr. Narayan Narasingha Khatri commented on their papers respectively.
Dr. Adhrikari's paper entitled 'The Debate
on Constitution Building and Relevance of Social Democracy'
offers a conceptual framework to social democracy and highlight
the balance role of state and market to realise the elements
of social democracy - justice, freedom, equality and solidarity.
He dwelt on social democracy movement at length
and calls to see it in relativity of time and social context.
According to him, onslaught of globalization
has added new challenges to the concept of social democracy,
which he defines 'as a philosophy of positive revolt' that aims
at rooting out massive inequality, bondage and deprivations.
Loktantra, respect of diversity and equal
participation of the people, vibrant and active state, equal
and just distribution of property and power, and restructuring
the traditional state, decentralization and social security
are the major constituents of social democracy, writes Dr. Adhikari.
In his concluding statement, he stressed on
diverting capital into rural areas, modernizing agriculture,
making development project village oriented, lessening the pressure
of population, setting up labour-intensive industries in rural
areas, protecting national industries, motivating the foreign
investors for social responsibility, generating employment and
skill for the marginalized people, and restructuring the state
for poverty alleviation to maintain coordination and cooperation
between globalization and social democracy.
"There is the need of launching a meaningful
debate on social democracy in order to frame a loktantrik statute
and democratize the state, government and the society,"
He lashed out at the politicians saying that
they have indulged in power politics and failed to spare time
to engage in ideological debate on socialism and democracy.
Commenting on his paper, Dr. Koirala said
that the paper had shown that intellectuals should be above
He said that the writer portrayed the contemporary
political situation with pessimistic note.
"It is a fusion of Marxism and democratic
socialism. It attempts to solve the socio-economic problems
by combining parliamentary system with the elements of Marxism
but failed to highlight the positive sides of communist revolutions
of the past," he added.
Dr. Koirala said that it would have been better
if he had candidly mentioned as to why the NC-led government
privatized the public enterprises that were running on profit.
He said that the paper could have been finer
provided it outlined the nature of government and federalism
in the new statute.
"Nonetheless, it offers space for finding
a common ideological ground among the three major parties -
NC, UML and the Maoist," he added.
Dr. Poudel, in his paper 'CPN-UML's Views
in the Context of Current Political Deadlock,' makes an anatomy
of capitalism and holds strong conviction that socialism is
Analyzing the nature of capitalism, he said,
"The collectivization of production and privatization of
distribution are the essence as well as inherent contradiction
of capitalism. The privatization of profits and socialization
of the cost is the basis of capitalism for its survival."
The blind yet endless pursuit of capitalism
for more and more profit has led to excessive depletion of natural
resources, he said. He pleaded to restore collective ownership
of people on the means and resources of production to check
ecological degradation and existential crisis of human beings.
He claimed that the current stalemate had
arisen owing to two reasons: The vast gap between the ambition
and ground reality of non-Maoist forces, and the failure of
the Maoists to abide by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
"The NC and UNL did not take much
lesson from the past's dirty game of politics even after the
entering into the republican se-up. The parties' decision to
go for majority system from the consensus was the main factor
behind the current impasse. During the transition, it is only
through consensus system that loktantra could be consolidated
and stability gained," said Poudel.
He said that there was the need of forging minimum consensus
among the three major parties for durable peace and statute
The NC's status quoist attitude and
the Maoists' anarchist activities are the root causes of the
present stalemate, claimed the UML leader.
"However, this deadlock is of temporary
nature. Democracy and socialism are in the blood of the Nepalese
people. They want to see the political parties coming closer.
The parties have no any other alternative but to follow the
path of consensus to end impasse and conclude the peace process."
Commenting on the paper, Dr. Narayan Narsingh
Khatri said that although the paper was of normative kind, it
wonderfully depicted the characteristic of capitalism.
Dr. Khatri agreed with the writer that human
society always favoured equality and that profits of capitalists
should be also socialized.
The state should act as a referee and generate self-employment
for the needy people, he said
"There should be proper distribution
means of production. At the same time, the government should
promote private sector for the growth of their entrepreneurships,"
Dr. Khatri put emphasis on the political culture
of consensus to realise social justice.
Comments from the Floor
Many of the participants questioned the neutral
stance of the UML, which they said, was the crux of the political
deadlock arisen from the failure of parliament to choose the
new prime minister.
Dr. Govinda Tumbahamphe asked the ways to
address the problems of ethnic people.
He said that UML's neutralism created the
PM-lessness for long period instead of solving the trade-off.
Pradeep Sharma said the Maoists broke the
Bishnu Hari Nepal opined that democracy meant
a system in which majority ruled and the minority sit in opposition.
"There could not be forced consensus,
which the UML is calling for," he added.
Kanta Rijal said she expected that the seminar
would focus on democratic socialism from the Nepalese perspective
and chalk out modality that suited the country but sadly, this
was not the agenda of the programme.
Bhawak Raj Neupane said that many tenets of
Marxism did not apply to Nepal, so, there was the need to identity
the problems and try to solve them through the context-based
Dr. Mrigendra Karki noted that the paper was
normative and failed to touch the ground reality.
Peshal Niraula said that democratic socialism needed to be interpreted
based on the country's socio-ethnic characteristics.
Jeeb Raj Kharel argued that the Maoist anarchism
and the UML's double standard led to the present crisis.
In their response, the paper presenters said
that the programme was purely ideological debate on the matter
and, therefore, it was nothing to do with the programmes of