Report of Workshop on Inner-Party Democracy
Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
18-19 July 2009, Nagarkot
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Nepal Office
organized a two-day intensive residential workshop on "Inner-Party
Democracy in Nepal" at Nagarkot on 18th and 19th of July,
2009. There were more than fifty participants coming mainly from
major political parties, Constituent Assembly members, ideologues,
constitutional lawyers and intellectuals. Majority of the participants
were high-level decision makers in their respective parties. The
overarching aim of this workshop was to instill democratic culture
across political parties in their working modalities which are
fundamentally amiss among them. The initiative of inner-party
democracy has been undertaken by FES Nepal for the first time
in 2006 which has already sparked a serious debate on the theme
in all political parties. The other objective of this program
was to develop "listening culture at various levels of party
committees," "mutual perspective taking" and the
culture of compromise within and across political parties to settle
contentious political issues plaguing the nation. This is primarily
required in the context of Nepal as, in many occasions; political
parties of this country have failed to evolve "common ground"
to strike a common consensus on major national issues and minimize
the scope of non-democratic challenge to political power. This
workshop is third in the series. They are aimed at transforming
authoritarian leader party to mass-membership party and engage
them in compromise - the ideal path to democracy. The documents
prepared by Prof Thomas Meyer have contributed to this effort.
Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES, Nepal delivered
welcome speech while Prof. Chaitanya Mishra from the Tribhuvan
University chaired the session. From the chair Mishra said,
"Party ties to both the state and society in Nepal are
undergoing major changes. Expansion of their representational
base is crucial to democratize party structures and stabilize
political system. He underlined that social democracy can be
a basis for governance for all parties in Nepal. Dahal introduced
his organization and highlighted objectives of the seminar.
He stressed on the equal importance of political freedom and
economic justice contending that for a progressive, prosperous
and peaceful world, these freedoms and rights must be equally
guaranteed and promoted. He emphasized that this can only happen
when political parties practice inner-party democracy.
That said when parties build up and maintain
ideological platform and deliberation so that clarity on what
the party believes and is ideologically committed becomes clear
and ideology glues party members and increases their voluntary
cooperation. In Nepal, Dahal added, there is a need to minimize
extra-political participation in the face of the reality that
communications between parties is drastically reduced. Similarly,
other challenges and tasks includes democratization of the contents
of party schools, maintaining institutional balance, a culture
of deliberation in the parties on ideological, organizational
and policy questions, congruence between party manifesto and
constitutional vision, abolition of the politics of negation
of dissident voice, periodic election of leadership and committee
members, membership renewal, transparency and accountability
of activities including finance to public, institutionalizing
mechanism of conflict resolution and promoting civic culture
and virtues. In a post-conflict state like Nepal, an essential
aspect of politics is to foster peaceful coexistence of plural
societies under the rule of law and provide opportunities for
non-elites to move to leadership position by removing hereditary,
caste, class and other privileges. He argued for social, gender
and inter-generational justice in political parties.
Modnath Prashhrit, former education
minister and leader of CPN-UML delivered keynote speech and
said that geography determines human evolution, civilization,
governance, production and circulation. By and large it shapes
development or underdevelopment of human history. He stressed
that every policy we adopt and practice should be based on our
reality and if we try to implement uncritically borrowed ideas
from outside they will create problem in society. We must understand
historical and social context of the emergence of Nepali society.
Nepal is different from European civilization, in terms of its
evolution, development and governance but the Nepali Congress
and left leaders have uncritically adopted those ideas. For
example socialism was introduced in Nepal before industrial
capitalism came into being in Western Europe; likewise parties
were formed before classes were invented. National characteristics
must be recognized while designing policies, without understanding
historical trends it is difficult to project the values into
the future. Nepal has tremendous resources but leadership must
formulate vision to capture this complexity and steer formal
healthy competition. Our problem is that political parties debate
more on theoretical conclusion rather than objective grounds.
We need to develop common outlets for collective action and
have to look for the converging points on the model of 'democracy'
and "geopolitical balance". The reality drives us
towards 'social democracy." All these can only be achieved
when political parties of different ideology work together.
This can happen when they are driven by the culture of 'compromise,"
and social learning.
Session II: Why Social Democracy?
The second session was also chaired by Chaitanya
Mishra and the paper was presented by Khagendra Prasai,
social democratic ideologue. Prasai said that the present-day
multifaceted problems and crisis can be resolved only by adopting
and practicing the principles and experiences of social democracy.
The political freedom and economic rights and equality must
be given equal value and importance. Neither is of secondary
importance. They are indivisible and interdependent-one contributing
to the growth of other. Human dignity, freedom, decent work
situation, can be protected only by adopting social democracy.
Human dignity needs to be ensured. Neither neo-liberalism nor
authoritarianism and communism can help to do so. It is social
democracy that brings societal forces together. It also works
towards ecological balance both for the survival of human being
as well as environmental sustainability.
Commentator Devendra Poudel (Sunil)
UCPN (Maoist) politburo member: Sunil said that we must focus
on our challenges - both internal and external. Internally we
need to develop the culture of consensus across political parties
and externally we have to balance our "geopolitics"
as we are caught-up between two rising giant neighbors. We have
to bring changes in our society and need to develop ideas which
are compatible with our needs. The post-modernism and neo-liberalism
have defined society by difference, production and commerce
rather than consensus. After the collapse of communism in former
Soviet Union new ideas have been developed. But we have to understand
our own situation. The socialist thought taken up by B P Koirala
was not bad. We are in transition from feudalism to capitalism.
Monarchy is gone but we are still living under the hegemony
of external actors. Our ideal choice would be to mark a shift
from "necessity" to "freedom". We should
focus on following areas: the beginning of the end of exploitation,
foreign capitalist oriented rationalization must end. It ends
citizenship and nationality, create gulf in class power, state
should play active role (without undermining freedom) to force
bourgeoisie to accept change, and 21st century is full of human
challenges and concern. Inner-party democracy is essential.
We should learn from outside but we have to contextualize what
we take from outside. The central question is how we should
go ahead in building a just, equitable, and peaceful society.
Commentator Ramesh Lekhak, leader Nepali
Congress and former minister of labor: Lekhak said that the
new social thinking is based on modification of capitalism rather
than its total negation. Since there was no individual freedom
in communism, the new approach in capitalism should minimize
capitalistic exploitation and upheld social justice which is
the base of social democracy. He said that Socialist International
also advocated for freedom, equality and solidarity. As such
modern socialism should not encourage state control, by contrast,
increase the access of grassroots people on social security.
We cannot discourage private capital, if we do so, there will
be no incentive for production argued Lekhak. This will undermine
distribution in the long-run. Let people produce and pay tax
for distributive justice. We should also debate as how we can
promote ecological balance in situation where countries like
US have not ratified Kyoto Protocol. In the context of Nepal,
we only understand the concept of class but forgotten its base
such as gender, caste, ethnicity etc. We are developing a mechanism
for 'group protection' and have completely forgotten about class.
Perhaps, these all factors forces us to develop new social contract,
based on social justice and this is the reason we are discussing
about social democracy today. This type of approach needs to
instilled across political parties said Mr. Lekhak to foster
inner party democracy and expand the social base of representation.
FLOOR Discussion: Jhalak Subedi, left
intellectual, journalist and writer: Does social democracy reflects
Marxism or merely strengthens state institutions such as army,
police and bureaucracy? Does it fit with the idealism of Marxism
or differs from it? Is a strong state compatible with socialism?
The state is always class-biased. Capitalism operates on free
selection of goods and commodities therefore freedom of choice
is capitalistic. Saurav, independent thinker, made bitter
critique on the left's over preoccupation with theory and ideology
without contextualizing them properly and making them relevant
to the life-world of people. We have to rethink about the suitability
of the forms of governance in Nepal.
Nilam Sharma, Assistant Dean of Tribhuvan
University: Prasai has not dealt with economic aspect of socialism.
Private property is fundamental and crucial for individual freedom.
We must operate how it shapes political culture of parties.
Dina Mani Pokhrel, Constitutional lawyer: The paper is
rich in concept but it needs to address some questions related
to our context. I think we must decide which rights is primary-
political or economic? How do socialism and capitalism differ
in terms of looking at environment and organizing production
and building political institutions? The centre of debate is
neo-liberalism? Is there possibility of Keynesianism on private
property - accumulation and investment? Pushkar Gautam,
former Maoist commander of Okhaldhunga district: What is meant
by secular democracy? With whom should competition be made in
socialism as there are not contending classes and interests
represented by party spectrums? What is the most appropriate
means to socialism? Does globalization support this? Matrika
Poudel, Revolutionary Left Wing, a breakaway faction of
UCPN (Maoist): How can socialist consciousness be built? Is
Nepalese critical mass ready for this? Who makes it percolate
down to people? Kamala Parajuli: State should play more
proactive rules in terms of providing social security to the
people. Perhaps social democratization of political parties
would be the right way to do this. The paper has not dealt with
ethnic issues which are emerging as frowning phenomenon. Tika
Ram Bhattarai, Constitutional Lawyer: The upcoming constitution
should have vision of social democracy and create an environment
to develop infrastructure for that. For social justice - distribution
of property is essential but "nature based" property
should not be privatized only the arable land can be privatized.
Ram Kumari Jhankri, student leader:
We must engage ourselves in understanding historical context
as well as present character of Nepali society, economy and
polity. She pointed out that does state only oppress or provide
"service delivery" as well. Rajendra Gautam,
CPN-UML leader: We talk much of "necessity" and "freedom"
and Maoist preferred transformation for freedom. But the challenge
that lies ahead of us is how we can institutionalize "freedom"
and deal the question of necessity
under social democracy which we are going to adopt in the future
as common ideological platform of major political parties. But
what use is freedom if it is not felt by the people at large?
Rajendra Maharjan, left intellectual: Is socialism relevant?
First we have to define the character of our society. Does an
ancient European value fit with Nepali conditions? Is social
democracy bourgeoisie? If we merely incorporate rights in the
constitution does it promote empowerment of people? How can
capitalist liberate/empower "powerless" ? The author
has rightly mentioned Marx's ideas on relationship between individual
and society but Lenin has been misquoted.
Damodar Poudel, CPN-: Our ideas need
to be based on our reality. Geja Sharma Wagle, NC intellectual:
We must be objective. The paper has blended socialism and democracy
and ways to achieve them through the democratization of political
parties. Surendra Raj Pandey, NC leader: We are happy
to hear that Marx stood for democracy and he was never prepared
to compromise freedom for equality. There is fusion of ideas
between NC and UML. When our ideas are converging, it is right
time for us to plan for the future action for social justice.
The need of hour in Nepal is communist should democratize and
Nepali congress should socialize their party structures. Bimal
Karki, district leader CPN-UML: The global financial crisis
can be resolved through socialists approach. We have to focus
on building infrastructures for social democracy.
Response from Ramesh Lekhak: My stand
on property is that private property has to be guaranteed to
provide economic incentives. I am of the opinion that there
has to be no limit on size of ownership. If limit is imposed,
Response from Khagendra Prasai: As
far as question of private property is concerned, there can
be no justice without equitable distribution of economic opportunities
and resources which can be ensured only through distribution
of property. I have argued in my paper why socialist policies
are needed to make sure that one and everyone must be ensured
property for economic incentive. History and present evidences
show that social justice and unlimited property rights are incompatible.
On question of class biasness of state, I do totally agree.
But, democracy and state are not the same. Democracy is primarily
a power of public while statehood is a way of organizing society.
The present day democracy, by virtue of its being secular, gives
everyone opportunity. It depends on how we organize ourselves
and use our political freedom to accomplish our cherished goals.
As regards whether socialism has to be our constitutional goal,
it is a kind of ''constitutional authoritarianism''. If we believe
in competition, constitution must ensure that all political
parties and ideologies should have reasonable opportunities
to compete peacefully. If we bar non-socialists from competing,
how can that be democratic? If we do not bar then there is no
sense in having socialism as our goal in constitution.
Remarks from the Chair Chaitanya Mishra:
Let us think in relative terms. Capitalism is progressive in
some stages of its development compared to feudalism as it gave
us rights, rule of law, democracy, social justice, constitution,
etc. It is, however, like everything else, moribund. Democracy
is meaningful and effective only when people are enabled for
which economic and social rights can be guaranteed which is
an important ingredient of social democracy. Access of citizens
to democracy can be enhanced by doing so. Social democracy is
an attempt to seek cooperation between capital and labor, therefore,
it can be a meeting ground for all political parties in Nepal.
It also moderates the capitalism, entitles citizens with civic,
political, social, economic and cultural rights and increases
the stake holding of citizens in the political system.
SESSION III: Social Democracy and People's
The session was chaired by Surendra Raj Pandey. The paper titled
"Social Democracy and People's Multi-Party Democracy"
was presented by Pradip Gyawali, CPN-UML leader and former
minister: People's Multi-Party Democracy (PMPD) propounded by
Madan Kumar Bhandari was based on the theory of revolutionary
transformation and democratization of entire party movement
and state. Social democracy and people's multi-party democracy
approximates in that they advocate peaceful transformation but
differ in that former is evolutionist and the latter is revolutionist.
Jhalak Subedi: In its contents, people's multiparty democracy
has dropped revolutionary essence. The democracy it advocates
is more of bourgeoisie. State and democracy are always class-biased.
How can society move ahead in a revolutionary way? Yogesh
Bhattarai, youth leader, CPN-UML: The chief characteristics
of the context in which People's Multiparty Democracy was conceived
and propounded was that communist movement was facing serious
setbacks in theories and movement. Authoritarian model of communist
state, party and society has caused irreversible damage to the
people's movement. In this context, vibrant civic revival and
reinterpretation of Marxism and socialism appeared as pressing
need. Madan Kumar Bhandari made serious and honest attempt to
that purpose. People's Mulitparty Democracy is revolutionary
transformation of society through democratic process. It is
of strong conviction that revolution and democracy are not opposed
and mutually exclusive to each other, but rather that they are
indispensable to each other.
FLOOR: Bimal Karki: We claim that we have
perfect theory but our performance in every front is far less
than satisfactory. Matrika Poudel: If the doctrine had been
revolutionary as claimed by the author, another party with allegedly
'revolutionary stand' would not have appeared. Pushkar Gautam:
PMPD advocates essentiality of competition even in socialism.
My question is: why is competition needed in that state? What
will be the economic base of competition? Nur Raj Basyal, District
leader of CPN-UML: How can PMPD be actually a theory of transformation?
Ramesh Adhikari: It is said that PMPD emphasizes too much on
use of force for revolution rather than party competition. What
do you have to say on that?
Response from Author: We have good reason
to believe that PMPD is a novel idea and also that it advocates
revolutionary change through democratic means and process. As
far as use of force is concerned, I think the force advocated
by PMPD is not the force of violence but of people power-the
mobilization of masses for collective action.
Remarks by Chair Surendra Raj Pande:
I appreciate my friends' willingness and readiness to have open
debate on such crucial theoretical question about ideology,
party building and democratization of political institutions.
Actually, PMPD, I suppose, has made some contribution in democratizing
Nepali communists. They have tried to get rid of dogmas and
have become successful to some extent.
SESSION IV: Democratic Socialism Today
The session was chaired by Dr. Ram Sharan
Mahat, NC leader and long-time finance minister, and the paper
was presented by Mana Mohan Bhattarai, ideologue of NC
party: Socialist theory and movement has long history with countless
ups and downs. The first fundamental ideal of socialism was
sharing of fruits of human labor on the basis of freedom, equality
and human unity. Socialism became popular in Northern Hemisphere
which was industrialized or rapidly industrializing first. But
later on it took its roots in Southern hemisphere. Here, its
popularity in theory and movement had to do with aspiration
for national independence and freedom from poverty and want.
For some reasons, socialism, here, was conceived as being equivalent
to state interference in all economic businesses and elimination
of private property and enterprises. In some case, the idea
went so far in practice that socialism became authoritarian
statism. State became all powerful vis-a-vis individual freedom
and dignity. Hence, with failure of these regimes, the cry for
de-alienation became prevalent. The crisis that some so called
socialists states and societies brought them to collapse and
many western ideologue have defined and propagandised this as
collapse of socialism. "Socialism has failed and will always
fail", they cried. But it is totally mistaken idea. It
was not the failure of socialism but failure of authoritarian
statism that is mistaken for socialism.
Comment by NP Saud, NC leader and former
Minister: It is indisputable that over-preoccupation with socialist
thought has weakened Nepali Congress. I agree with Mana Mohan
that socialism has to guarantee personal liberty, equality and
human unity. It should also be based on the condition of particular
nation. Blind imitation has caused and will cause serious harm
to such noble ideas. Democracy, undoubtedly, is indispensable
to building socialism. But, before that political parties, the
infrastructures of democracy must be democratized.
Comment by Dr. Bijaya Poudel, ideologue
of CPN-UML: The idea of socialism has to be based on scientific
analysis of society and history. The role of the state is of
particular concern here. Downsizing the state, at present, creates
favorable condition for well-off class and marginalized section
will be pushed into further marginalization. This creates massive
inequality in wealth and opportunities.
FLOOR: Thakur Gaire, Youth leader of
CPN-UML: Cutting down the role and authority of state would
not help us develop and progress. Moreover, it also creates
inequality and lawlessness. Damodar Poudel: Nepali congress's
democratic socialism equates with capitalism in practice and
theory. Kamala Parajuli: Who will protect the poor and marginalized
if state is downsized? Nilam Sharma: Nepali Congress which advocated
democratic socialism for a long has given this up. I think there
is a strong need to revive and explain the ideology of democratic
socialism and reinvigoration of party structures. The attempt
made by author in this paper is worth appreciating. Bimal Karki:
I have question concerning the size and role of state. Does
downsizing the state help at present in view of the need to
articulate our economic and social life which has stagnated?
I am of firm conviction that state can and should play vital
role in this regard.
Response from Author Man Mohan Bhattarai:
Many questions have come up but I will focus much on the role
of state today. My idea on the size and role of state are totally
misunderstood. My idea is simple and straightforward: the State
should have crucial role but all mechanism and apparatus of
state has to be formed democratically which alone can prevent
the state from being authoritarian and irresponsible. Only can
such State protect the liberty and well-being of its citizens
because citizens themselves manage and operate it through political
parties, representative institutions, civil society and civic
Remarks by Chair Ram Sharan Mahat:
We all talk about socialism, justice, equality and freedom.
But we should not forget the role of capitalism in creating
wealth and prosperity without which social justice and well-being
are utopian. Some countries which were bent on building socialism
have now realized that without creating abundant wealth socialism
cannot be constructed. Therefore, they have introduced capitalist
and liberalist policies to boost up production. And equally
important is that freedom cannot be compromised at all because
it stimulates innovation, efficiency and incentives. By crushing
freedom and liberty, nation can gain tempo of development but
that is short-lived. Therefore, for a sustainable development,
incentive must be provided continuously. When we ponder on socialism
and any other political doctrine, we must keep these in minds
and shape our political parties accordingly.
SESSION V: Socialist Party Organization.
Ghana Shyam Bhushal, CPN-UML leader:
The experience that we have gained from history has compelled
us to seriously reconsider the organizational principles on
which party, state or any other activity is based and conducted.
Nowadays, inner party democracy has become an unanimous agenda
for all political parties in Nepal. Inner-party democracy is
aimed at creating democracy by giving freedom and responsibility
to each member of party. But this has been interpreted and practiced
in such a way that some individuals have really been empowered
but organizations have weakened. This has assumed a liberalist
not socialist stand. As socialist principles of organization,
individual should not prevail over group or vice versa. They
should be in interdependence and harmony. The majority and minority
situation in party is being handled in such a way that they
are majority and minority of parliament. Of course, there is
a need to manage differences of opinion without which party
becomes militarized, authoritarian and personality oriented.
But if majority and minority inside party are treated as majority
and minority in parliament, the party becomes a purely bourgeoisie,
good at managing interest of various factions of elites rather
than serving the people. One of the most crucial issues of socialist
party organization concerns means-end philosophy. If end is
noble, means should necessarily be noble and democratic. The
idea that end justifies the means is absolutely wrong and does
not become of socialist party and social movement. If the goal
of socialist movement is equality of all human beings, the organization
of socialist party must necessarily be based on and should guarantee
equality of all members. In the past, different models of organization
were proposed and they were hotly debated. Lenin was in favor
of centralized organization based on hierarchy and system of
instruction, whereas, Rosa stood for the organization in which
much emphasis was put on initiatives to be taken by each member
consciously. "Spontaneity or management?" was the
center point of many other debates. Too much emphasis on spontaneity
would lead to dissolution and inaction of political party. Whereas
too much emphasis on management would lead, as history shows,
to centralization and hierarchy which is a threat to democracy
as people are distanced from participation.
Comment by Rajendra Maharjan: I fully
agree with author that socialist party organization suffered
a lot from method of organization which, in large, can be attributed
to organizational principles. There is a serious need to reconsider
organizational principles that we have adopted. Comment by Muma
Ram Khanal, ideologue of Revolutionary Left Wing, a breakaway
faction of UNPN (Maoist): I do agree with author on several
organizational questions. The principles of party organization
that were propounded by Lenin and practiced later by communist
parties needs serious scrutiny. We know that such principles
led party to bureaucratic and militarized machine and alienated
it from 'demo", the people. Consequently, party lost its
life and met the destiny which was inevitable.
FLOOR: Surendra Raj Pandey: The paper
tells nothing about our situation and context. It would have
been better if it was contextualized. Dhyan Bahadur Rai, youth
leader: It is widely agreed, except by some orthodox, that principle
of party organization needs revisiting. Our task at present
is to think of principle which will democratize entire party
system and in the meantime make it capable of leading drastic
social transformation. Nura Raj Basyal, CPN-UML: Do you mean
that inner party democracy leads party to bourgeoisie organization?
Ram Kumari Jhakri: I do agree we should democratize ourselves,
but without concrete ideology, democratic exercise is meaningless.
It converts party into an anarchic club without any mission.
Response from Author: My principal concern
is that democracy, in which only individual freedom and responsibility
are emphasized, cannot ensure transformation of society. If
democracy alone would ensure such transformation, many bourgeoisie
parties would have led this. What history has shown is that
those party emphasizing democracy one-sidedly have ended up
as bourgeoisie and those that have stressed management have
ended up as military party and even collapsed at the end of
the day. With regards to the comment that this is too theoretical,
all have to say is to build up a party capable of leading social
transformation; we must have fundamental clarity on principal
theories of party organization. The problem with many of us
is that we do not want to enter theories and even condemn such
Remarks from the Chair: As everybody feels
that the paper is theoretically rich and has raised many serious
questions. Our willingness or unwillingness to accept or even
listen to such ideas is largely determined by our schooling
and also by preparedness and knowledge of the past. As contended
by the author and added by some participants, the principal
task before us is to build a truly democratic and transformational
party. These two substances are indispensable and inseparable.
The seminar concluded
with the remarks by Pushkar Gautam, Saurabh, Geja Sharma Wagle
and Chandra Bhandari. All contended that our democratic movement
has suffered from lack of adequate deliberation within the parties
and stressed a need to continue this kind of debate and deliberation
on socialism, democracy, inner-party democracy, public policies
and other institutional questions that affect our personal and
public life and contribute to reform the state and execute social
transformation. Inner party democracy offers old parties an
opportunity to renew beyond the patchwork of elite consensus
for cooptation and cohabitation, encourages party members to
participate actively both inside and outside the party platforms
where open discussion takes place about public affairs. Injection
of fresh bloods in the various committees of these parties is
expected to inspire innovation, creativity and dynamism for
popular mobilization. This minimizes friction and strengthens
the electoral synergy. The constituency of peace must be built
within the conflict actors' rank and file and generate benefits
of peace dividend so that benefits of peace are higher. Development
projects and institutionalization of all pillars of peace including
local peace committees beneficial to all sides establish trust
and begin reconciliation process. When the soft faction fails
to get sufficient gain the hardliners prevails. This weakens
the culture of democracy to resolve conflict through negotiation