Report on Inner Party Democracy and Social
Organised by Nepal Studies Center (NSC)
7-8 August 2010
By Khagendra Prasai, Graduate Student of Philosophy,
University of South Florida
On 7th and 8th August, 2010 Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
(FES) and Nepal Studies Center (NSC) organized a two-day national
dialogue on "Inner Party Democracy and Social Democracy"
at Local Development Training Academy, Jawalakhel.
In this two-day seminar, four papers-- inner-party
democracy, social democracy, democratic socialism and social
transformation-- were presented. Altogether 90 participants
including 15 women representing three major parties-Nepali Congress,
Communist Party of Nepal Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML),
UCPN (Maoist) and Revolutionary Left Wing, party ideologues,
Constituent Assembly members, youth wings, academics and civil
society took part. This is the continuation of three previous
dialogues on the same themes.
DAY ONE: The Inaugural Session
The seminar began with inaugural session chaired
by senior journalist Mr. Rajendra Maharjan in which Head of
Nepal office of FES Dev Raj Dahal delivered welcome cum keynote
speech touching upon a number of important issues and ideas
pertaining to inner-party democracy such as modernization of
party, ties with ancillary organizations, inner-party debate,
ideology and policy making, factional fight and funding. He
asserted that inner-party democracy constitutes solution to
numerous political evils surviving and emerging in Nepali society
and politics. He concluded: "among all the available solutions
to problems of politics in Nepal, inner-party democracy is the
most urgent and thus most promising way for Nepal's democratic
future." Rajendra Maharjan argued that in a contest between
capitalism and democracy how solution of national problems can
be found within capitalist framework. There is a need to debate
to discuss on alternative means acceptable to majority of Nepalese
and the ideological discussion like this is a step in right
Second Day's Session I: Why Social Democracy
in Nepal Now?
This session was chaired and conducted by
CPN UML leader Ram Chandra Jha in which Professor Chaitanya
Mishra presented his paper "Why Social Democracy in Nepal
Now?" which was commented by UCPN (Maoist) leader Dharmendra
Bastola and followed by questions and queries from the floor
and subsequent responses from author and commentator. Chaitanya
Mishra: There is a serious weakness present in both the 'communist'
and bourgeois readings of contemporary society and the world,
namely, ahistorical interpretation of society. The political
programs based on such readings are almost certain to lead to
unwarrantedly subjective, romantic and false. Given the historical
specificity of Nepali society, namely, its being capitalistic
and democratic, the most privileged model is social democracy.
The social democracy, the contradictions within which become
irresolvable, in the long run, however, can provide, for a long
but not interminable term, a mechanism of resolving contradictions
within the capitalist democracy. Social democracy has some essence
which sets it apart from other forms of governance and effectively
solves the contemporary problem: it creates a situation in which
labour, market and state work as partner, the state being relatively
autonomous rather than representing one class at the expense
of the other; it tends to ensure the access prerequisite for
effective citizenry as political agent; it creates in workers
and other citizen a sense of ownership over the state; and it
removes barriers to effective citizenship and selfhood and self
respect faced by various subordinated and marginalized groups.
Dharmendra Bastola: The paper is very important
as it explains the orientation of Nepalese society. Our party's
second national convention discussed about inner party democracy.
Without the removal of exploitative character of capitalism
freedom of people cannot be possible. The question of who governs
is important in our discussion about the appropriateness of
the political system. The idea of autonomy of the state under
social democracy seems untenable. Any state represents and is
always inclined to certain class in any historical stage. Undoubtedly,
the state has crucial role in creating environment conducive
to effective political participation as well as assurance of
justice and equity to all citizens. According to the principle
of unity of opposites, democratic and dictatorial element of
the state will continue to exist in the future also.
Mr. Purushwottam Neupane: What is the relation
between socialism and state capitalism? My question goes to
Mr. Bastola: How can idea of unity of opposite be practiced
in real life if communists are bent on practicing one-party
dictatorship and also regards communist party as the only legitimate
source of all power? Mrs. Sabitra Bhushal (Leader, CPN UML and
CA member): Is social democracy compulsion or choice? What is
the ideological basis of social democracy-class struggle or
class coordination? Matrika Poudel (Youth leader): What would
the third kind of democracy look like which would be distinct
from capitalist or communist system? Narendra Khatiwoda: How
is privatization viewed in social democracy? Ghanashyam Bhushal
(Ideologue, CPN-UML): My comment is directed to Bastola. The
class approach as championed by Bastola arises when we are in
hurry to carry out and complete revolution in one generation.
What is to be noted is every generation has his own historical
task, therefore, at this present historical moment, our generation
has certain task which is much similar to building social democracy.
Nawaraj Khatiwada: My question goes to Bastola:
"On what ground could you claim that Nepal is a semi-feudal
society?" "How could you claim that democracy and
dictatorship are the same?" Gautam Rai: Question to Prof.
Mishra: How could you claim that Nepal is a capitalist society?
How does social democracy solve ethnic and other forms of social
inequality? Jhalak Subedi (left intellectual): How can social
democracy reconciles the interest of capital and labor under
fundamentally capitalist setting? Thakur Gaire (Student leader):
If major political parties dialogue freely and openly, they
all reach social democracy? Uttam Niraula: How can we find a
common ground on which all political parties can work? Ms. Usha
Kiran Timsina (youth leader), asked how social democracy is
possible in Nepal whose society and economy are capitalist?
Are there programs for social democracy? Can they be incorporated
in the new constitution? Devraj Dahal: Under social democracy,
state can maintain relative autonomy and underprivileged class
may rise up the ladder as tax money from the rich can subsidize
the welfare of the poor like in Germany and Scandinavian countries.
In the actually existing social democracy, reconciliation of
labor and capital is effected through constitutional provisions,
law enactment, co-determination of policy, workers' right to
free collective bargaining and social security to under classes
of society. The sate represents both capital and labor, rather
than only the capital.
Bastola in response said that the heightening
of class struggle is historical task of our time and solution
to contemporary problems consists in revolutionizing production
relations, social relations, cultural relations and innovation
of ideas. Nepal is still a semi-feudal, semi-colonial society.
Concerning unity of opposites that operates in democratic society,
democracy goes hand in hand with non-democracy or dictatorship.
Professor Mishra said that I would restate
that advocates of great leap forward and status quo both do
not understand Nepalese society and the meaning of revolutionary
transformation; both are ahistorical and non-dialectical. Nepal
is not semi-feudal, semi colonial, rather a dependent capitalist
society within the capitalist world system. I have ample evidence
and theoretical framework to confirm my claim. The principal
reason for its being a non feudal society is that unlike in
feudalism in which land ownership is concentrated in few hands,
the land ownership in contemporary Nepal is dispersed, widely
dispersed. The autonomy and isolation of a nation has come virtually
to a complete end therefore Nepal can be understood only by
understanding the world system. Social democracy is both compulsion
and opportunity, a historically needed and appropriate system
of economy and politics; it valorizes labor and also contributes
to capital formation. Sum-up by Chairperson Ram Chandra Jha
(CA Member): We have agreement and disagreement but deliberation
of this kind help in clarifying ourselves and identifying the
common ground of agreement. He added that Nepal should address
the problem of social conflict by integrating social struggle
and class struggle; social integration is complementary to class
struggle. These social movements and class struggles have the
potential to broaden the base of political parties and democratize
SESSION II: Inner-Party Democracy and Party's
This session was chaired by the senior journalist
Yubraj Ghimire in which Khagnedra Prasai (graduate student of
philosophy at University of South Florida) presented paper which
was followed by comments from CPN UML leader Pradeep Gyawali
(also CA member) and questions and queries from the floor.
Khagendra Prasai: The principal problems facing
the democratic political parties in Nepal includes lack of adequate
democracy within the party and exercise of bureaucratic and
strictly hierarchical structure which divides the party members
into two fundamentally opposing classes-the subject and the
object, the former authorized to think and make decision on
behalf of the entire party and the latter prepared to work under
the instruction and tutelage from above. Such structure creates
condition in which both subject and object classes become debilitated
and enervated in their power to reason and thereupon become
politically, intellectually and morally incapacitated. The only
remedy consists in democratizing the party in which all members
are required to and get ample opportunity to qualitatively participate
in the life of party as a free and conscious subject. The principal
measures of democratization includes election and recall, complete
transparency, participation of all members in formulation of
ideology and principal policies, and development of critical
mindedness on all members.
Pradeep Gyawali: I do fully agree with Prasai
that lack of adequate democracy within the party causes and
has caused serious damage to the ability of all members, party
leaders and the entire party. But when we propose remedies we
need to take into consideration the goals for which parties
are formed. The goals largely shape the internal mechanism and
structure of the party in question. The party and movement must
be distinguished; the former is a tightly organized structure
whereas the latter is loosely organized, more flexible and open.
The other important thing is that parties have social-historical
basis of their formation and the same rule or prescription does
apply to all parties. Transparency is strongly recommended but
some business of party must be kept confidential. No doubt,
leaders must be made accountable. He said that after party conventions
inner dynamics of NC and CPN-UML is changing but there is a
serious need of critical reflection about civic competence of
party cadres, accountability of leaders, decentralization of
power to party committees and smooth transfer in leadership.
The Floor Discussion
Basanta Basnet: My question goes to Gyawali.
Why do we need secrecy or confidentiality? How can we practice
equality in such a condition? Muma Ram Khanal (Revolutionary
Left Wing): Prasai's analysis and prescription seems too generalized;
parties are of different types in terms of their goals and structure.
Inequality is practiced everywhere. What we see is leaders have
rights and cadres have only duties to perform. The crucial challenge
in Nepal is leaders do not know the goals of parties and nation
and, therefore, do not behave accordingly. Similarly, another
challenge is to build party consciousness and discipline. Maoist
party is centralized completely. How can they enter into democratic
discourse? Surya Thapa (Journalist): Do these prescriptions
apply to all parties? This is too generic. This sounds like
post-modernist. Gautam Rai: I do agree with Prasai that parties
do not adequately practice democracy. Yam Lal Kadel (political
leader): These prescriptions sound abstract. The parties are
so weak, how can we implement inner-party democracy? Jhalak
Subedi: This sound idealist and post-modernist. All members
are not equal. For example, the members of central committee
have control over information and decision making. Now, a new
development is occurring in both NC and CPN-UML as cadres are
questioning the leaders accountability.
Ramesh Adhikari: The problems and prescription
for inner-party democracy needs to be contextualized by analyzing
the political culture of each political party. Ms. Narayani
Devkota (youth leader): asked a question as to how leaders don't
feel that they are superior to cadres. In fact, most members
of political parties are cadres who follow instruction and work
under tutelage. Usha Kiran Timsina: In all parties, deliberation
has been undermined. Tika Ram Bhattarai (constitutional lawyer):
I do agree with general orientation of the paper. But, in the
sense equality is advocated, it seems that it leads to anarchy
and chaos in the party. Party and movement are different. Response
from Gyawali: I, unambiguously, stand for transparency and accountability
but I strongly hold that some issues connected with strategies
and tactics have to be kept confidential. We need to distinguish
discrimination and inequality. Response from Prasai: It is obvious
that prescriptions for inner-party democracy apply to democratic
parties. It is equally obvious that there are certain universal
principles of democracy which must be adopted and practiced
by all democratic or constitutional parties, regardless of their
goals. The idea that parties arise and exist in certain social
and historical conditions should not be used as excuse to avoid
democracy in the party. More importantly, democracy can proliferate
in society only when the political parties practice democracy
adequately. Mr. Pradeep said that he champions accountability,
but, in the meantime, he holds that certain party business can
be kept secret. How can accountability be meaningful without
Session III: Transformation of Nepali Society
This session was chaired by Pradeep Giri,
Nepali Congress leader and CA member, in which. Ghanashyam Bhusal,
CPN UML leader presented paper which was followed by comments
from Muma Ram Khanal and questions and queries from the floor.
Ghanashyam Bhusal: We must learn two crucial lessons from our
history. Firstly, capitalism and communism practiced so far
have dehumanized and alienated human beings. Secondly, armed
struggle committed avowedly to liberation of nations and people
have cost dear to humanity and revolution and stood eventually
against people. Only by giving serious consideration to these
historical processes and tendencies, we can think of and formulate
program of social transformation. As pre-requisite to social
transformation we must possess adequate knowledge of political-economic
character of our society. The political-economic nature of our
society is comprador or dependent capitalism which constitutes
the principal reason of not only economic backwardness and inequality
but also of other forms of inequality such as regional and ethnic.
Therefore, the principal solution consists in creating industrial
or productive capitalism which will solve present-day contradictions.
Such historical task must be discharged through peaceful and
Muma Ram Khanal: I do agree with many positions
that the author holds and advocates. It is true that socialism
has fallen victim of ultra-leftism or terrorism, so to speak.
One point that I strongly disagree with him is his unqualified
inclination to peaceful transformation of society like ours.
Is use of force always detrimental and damaging? The culture
of using force for the resolution of problem is not conducive
to democratic political culture.
The Floor: Ms. Narayani Devkota: My question
goes to the commentator, Khanal. What do you think is the appropriate
way of transformation if the peaceful method is not viable?
Matrika Poudel: We have borrowed revolutions, therefore, they
fail. What we think to be revolution, in fact, is revolt. We
could not indigenize them. Ramesh Adhikari: What constitutes
core of colonialism? What is the nature of Nepal-India relation?
Could you throw some light on class analysis of Nepali society?
How do we judge the appropriateness of theory? Gautam Rai: It
was pretended by Lenin and other that capitalism is moribund,
then why is it still surviving? Ms. Usha Kiran Timsina: Why
doesn't your party CPN-UML discuss these things? Ms. Nabina
Lama (Youth leader): I think Nepali society is capitalist and
therefore, the solution of our problem cannot be found in capitalism.
Nabaraj Khatiwoda: Khanal did not propose a solution of the
current problems Nepal is facing.
Yogesh Bhattarai (youth leader): How can revolution
go independently in different nations? Do we need an international
network in the globalized context in order to survive? Purushuttan
Neupane: Bourgeois democracy is democratic in name only. Prakash
Jwala: Has feudalism come to a complete end? If reactionary
stand with force, how can peaceful transformation be feasible?
How can transformation be brought about by developing the existing
productive forces? Jhalak Subedi: I appreciate the paper for
its emphasis on logic and reason in place of faith. Sabitra
Bhusal: The author claimed that ours is capitalist society,
but what is to be noted is that our traditions, backwardness,
superstitions etc all suggest the existence of feudalism. Yug
Pathak (Journalist): I disagree with the statement that feudalism
no longer exists in Nepal. The nature of state is still feudal.
We are not territorial colony but still semi-colony. Ram Kumari
Jhakri: I agree with the author that we are not semi-feudal
society. What defines feudalism is not the backwardness of technology
but social relations, actually existing relations of production-existence
of feudal lord and serf. Basanta Basnet: We need more debates
on these kinds of questions. Rajendra Maharjan: The paper misses
geopolitical dimension of the problem. Response from Muma Ram
Khanal: All I mean is that People's Multi-Party Democracy espoused
by CPN-UML is not well-defined; it contains a great many ambiguities
and confusions. What Maoist has proposed as program of social
transformation is problematic because it has its ideological
base on cultural revolution and constant revolution.
Response from Ghanashyam Bhusal: I am of firm
conviction that use of force in revolution is not only unnecessary
but counterproductive. Whether or not we are a feudal society
can be resolved by defining feudalism and objectively identifying
the political-economic character of Nepali society. International
network will come to develop sooner or later. The emancipation
of man is the realization of human essence for himself and by
himself. What revolution will have to do is gradually extend
this self-realization and freedom. Sum-up by Chair Pradeep Giri:
Socialism, in general, and Marxism, in particular has become
a subject of controversy. Marx came from a highly complex intellectual
tradition which was built up by philosopher like Kant and Hegel.
For this reason, Marx thoughts are rarely understood and therefore
subject to various interpretations. Of course, if politics does
not follow right track, fascism is not far off. In attempts
to intellectualize us, we often ignore or devalue indigenous
SESSION IV: Democratic Socialism: Question
of Bottom Ten Billion
This session was chaired by NC leader Narahari
Acharya (CA member and ideologue) in which NC leader Manamohan
Bhattarai (CA member) presented paper which was followed by
comments from economist Keshav Acharya, Advisor of Finance Ministry,
and questions and queries from the floor.
Manamohan Bhattarai: The contemporary population
is sharply divided in terms of the standard of living in which
ten billion falls under absolutely helpless category. They are
deprived of human needs and utterly dispossessed. The present-day
war is not governed by ideology but occurs over resources. Capitalism
has not only ruthlessly exploited human labor but also Mother
Nature. On the other hand, planned economy has also met failures.
Therefore, it is advisable that state must take up responsibilities
in certain areas and the rest should be opened up for individuals.
The present day democratic socialism should mediate individual's
productivity and role of state in fostering it. Keshav Acharya:
I do agree that the present-day battle takes place over resources.
But, I strongly hold that role of state is substantial in initiating
productivity as well as in ensuring social justice. Why is HDI
higher in Scandinavian countries? Why is Vietnam much better
than Thailand? Why is Kerala better than other Indian states?
The simple answer is that state has taken role and invested
much in health, education, employment, social security etc.
Capitalism makes us consumer who use resources as just as raw
materials. The contemporary capitalism is financial capitalism
in which money makes money in distinction to industrial capitalism
in which money makes commodity and commodity makes money. Our
system should be based on human essence espoused by social state.
Deepak Bhattarai: The author said that
planned economy has failed, could you elaborate on that? Apart
from war over resources, the new dimension that constitutes
an important part of contemporary politics is identity politics.
Surya Thapa: I don't think advocates of communism are few in
number. Is this the crisis of socialism or efficiency? Matrika
Poudel: A sustainable democracy can be achieved only by empowerment,
employment, peaceful transformation and obligation. Pradeep
Giri: State intervention on certain areas like health and education
has accomplished good results as in China. I think we need focus
on creating decent employment rather than increasing national
prosperity. National prosperity does not necessarily mean well-being
of all citizens. Ms. Nabina Lama: Does the author mean that
we do not need ideology and politics? If this is the cause what
is the message for young generation who are engaged in politics
to change the society for better? Ram Kumari Jhakri (student
leader): Are economy and politics independent or interdependent?
So far I have seen they are interrelated and reform in one leads
the betterment of the other. We need to make both accountable
to public interest. Response from Keshav Acharya: As a result
of present liberalist policies, both private and public investment
on agriculture has significantly decreased which has caused
damage to our productivity. The growth that has come about in
some countries like India is jobless, therefore, would not help
much. Response from Author: All I mean is state should not directly
engage in economic activities but work as facilitator. Imported
plans have failed therefore we need indigenous planning. Resource
constitutes the basis of conflict. I do agree that other forms
of conflict such as identity politics have also crept in. Sum-up
by Chair: The identity politics is also concerned with resource
and its distribution. The contemporary development models have
created huge gap between village and city even in developed
countries. We cannot rid ourselves of ideal and ideology which
will continue to influence our politics. Spreading democratic
equity requires good governance.