Leadership building for social democracy
One-day seminar organised by BP Thought
13 April 2015, Kathmandu
Prepared by Ritu Raj Subedi
For a democracy to be robust and functional, it requires committed
democrats, observes Dr Thomas Meyer, a noted theoretician of social
democracy of our time. This saying, however, applies to the success
of any socio-political ism. Social democracy, an antidote to market
fundamentalists and hardliner communist, has emerged as a balanced
socio-economic and political theory with inherent superior moral
elements. Its validity and relevance grows every year as the neo-liberalism,
driven by the corporate-led capitalism and globalization, faces
crisis frequently. The economic globalization is spreading its
impacts with a mixed bag of downsides and upsides. But, its discontents
have exceeded its positive attributes, particularly in those nations
that have not found their feet even after witnessing the political
upheavals or ending their gruesome transitional phase.
The fight and rivalry between social democracy and neo-liberalism
goes on. Social democracy is now an answer to the maladies and
failures of neo-liberalism that insists on the stateless market
and role-less government. As above said, social democracy that
is, in other words, is a deepening and refinement of democracy,
demands confident and competent leaders to implements its cherished
goals, values and ideals. The people, who are imbued with social
democracy principles and consciousness, have the moral guts
and organizational ability to take it to the grassroots. Honing
leadership qualities in the prospective leaders is vital to
the success of social democracy. Taking this mission into account
the BP Thought Academy and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Nepal office
joined their hands for a series of national seminars to groom
future youth leaders by enlightening them about the nitty-gritty
of social democracy to which all major political forces have
switched in Nepal. The one-day seminar entitled 'the leadership
building for social democracy' was the part of nationwide campaign.
It drew a variety of participants disposed to learn and share
their views on the very theme. Scholars and politicians delivered
their candid views before the seminar entered into the serious
discussions on the associated topics such as neo-liberalism,
social democracy, globalization and the national interests.
It was divided into an opening and technical sessions.
Minister for Forest and Soil Conservation Mahesh Acharya
put forth his views in his capacity of chief guest speaker.
His opinions as follows:
The leadership should have commitment to ideology and act in
accordance with it. Social democracy, as propounded by BP Koirala,
is oriented towards socialism with due focus on political and
economic equality and social inclusion. For economic equality,
there should be production. To generate capital, we need entrepreneurs
that take risk of investing money in the production. The social
democracy model varies according to the status of the countries.
Growth model continues to change in every 10 years. Economic
growth is not only mechanical process and the human dimension
was also linked to it economic growth was not a mechanical process
and the human dimension was also linked to it. The issue of
inclusion took a centre stage as many people have not their
access to resources. The means of production should be optimally
harnessed. All elements have equal role in production - capital,
labour and technology. In order to build capital and introduce
new technology, we should encourage the private sector. Without
sufficient production, we cannot ensure redistributive justice.
Nepal's attempts to achieve economic growth through privatization
and neo-liberalization policies could not yield the desired
outcomes in the absence of effective institutions to monitor
and regulate the market and private sector. Actually, we didn't
have the institutions to supervise them. Nepal is not in a position
to stay off the framework of the global financial regime, but
there was sufficient scope for it to advocate its priorities
and interests. The government should build environment conducive
for the private sector to invest in areas such as industry,
trade and tourism, but it should not leave the essential areas
such as health and education to others and strive to make optimal
use of its resources for the development of these sectors.
Haribol Bhattarai, chairman, the BP Thought Academy
There is the need for giving emphasis on the ethical dimension
of politics to usher in an era of social democracy. Our cultural
norm is based on the motto of Bahujan hitay bahujan sukhay (welfare
and happiness of majority of the people). Our eastern civilization
is rich in knowledge, wisdom and shastras (classics). We no
longer need to copy the western world. What we should do is
to harness and contextualize them.
As BP put it, social democracy is the future wave of the world.
Socialism began right since the Vedic era. Capitalism and communism
are two extremes. Humans possess both elements- good and bad.
What we should is to cultivate positive thinking to promote
good. Knowledge, feeling and culture are above the laws. It
is necessary to open up the inner knowledge to take the society
towards right direction. This also requires motivation. In social
democracy, human welfare is considered to be sacrosanct. The
government must invest in areas such as education, health and
roads so as to provide basic services to the citizens.
Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES, Nepal office
There are three kinds of leaders- statesmen, leaders and bosses
with distinct qualities, character and political culture of
their own. Leadership quality is very important, especially
now to synthesize the contesting perspective of diverse Nepali
citizens, political parties and groups into national vision
and promulgate the new constitution. Nepali leaders require
an enlightened vision and means and acquire the quality to act
like statesmen capable of implementing the Directive Principles
and Policies of the State underlined in the interim constitution.
The leaders need to inspire people and mobilize resource to
bridge several tendencies such as new status quo, status quo
ante and revolutionary and various gaps: vision gap between
the changing Spirit of the Age and indigenous contesting idea
of democracy; development and peace; power gap between juridical
international status and actual political capacity of the state
for internal cohesion and system integration; development gap
between unequal social classes of society causing structural
injustice and multi-level conflict; and governance gap between
the ability of leaders to govern and their capacity to fulfill
popular aspirations for liberty, property, justice, peace and
identity. Social democracy seeks to transform unequal people
into equal citizen and this requires transformational leadership,
not the transactional one.
Social democratic leaders espouse universal and enlightened
values of freedom, social justice, solidarity and peace; prevent
the de-commodification of nature, culture, security, law, health
and education considering them public good; promote political
regulation of market and pro-active role of intermediary institutions
and civil society in mediation of public policies; foster integrated
ecological, social, gender and intergenerational justice at
multi-level governance by setting up rule of law based on public
reason and public accountability and optimize interests, ideologies
and identities in the middle path and resolve conflict through
the peaceful compromise of legitimate interests.
Social democracy is an open-access political order that supports
specific laws pertaining to labour, women, indigenous people,
Dalits, minorities and disabled, thereby, increasing their access
to the institutional resources of the state. Nepal's historical
tradition of justice, middle path and endorsement to major human
rights instruments, labour laws, Kyoto protocol and CEDAW confirm
its future path to social justice, the lynchpin of social democracy.
Shedding light the objective of the seminar, academy secretary
Suraj Raj Kalfle said that it planned to acquaint the participants
with the major trends of neo-liberal and social democracy at
home and abroad. The Washington Consensus forced the developing
and poor nations to adopt market economy without any foundation.
Nepal needs to pursue sustainable development policies in line
with the spirit of social democracy.
The seminar saw four working papers presented by different
Ganesh Adhikari presented his working paper 'Neo-liberalism
hindering social democracy in Nepal', Pradeep Koirala and Suraj
Raj Kafle jointly presented 'Retrospect and prospect of Nepalese
political economy', Achyut Wagle 'Globalisation and social democracy
in Nepal' and Santosh Pariyar 'National interest and democracy.'
The gist of Adhikari's paper - 'Neo-liberalism hindering social
democracy in Nepal'
Profit-oriented capitalism and the service-oriented socialism
are mostly opposing schools of thought in both the economics
and politics. The capitalism versus socialism debate is concerned
with the role of government in choosing the system of either
private ownership or public ownership of the means of production.
My dissertation discusses two global political movements- neo-liberalism
and social democracy from policy perspective. Neo-liberalists
focus on somewhat stateless market economy and public-private
partnership for managing public affairs. On the other hand,
social democrats focus on social welfare and inclusiveness under
mixed economy. Globalization of neo-liberalism led by the international
financial institutions seems more functional to developed countries
and less to the developing nations like Nepal, particularly
for improving social security system of the country. All of
the major political parties in Nepal focused on improving social
security system in their manifestos. However, their implementation
part seems ineffective mainly because of being obedient to external
development partners, who promote neo-liberal system rather
than social security. It is imperative for the Nepalese government
to give higher priority to social security and reduce the role
of private sector in the social affairs. The responsibilities
of running schools, colleges and hospitals could be given to
municipalities so as to increase their revenues for spending
in social security programs. Globalization had spurred economic
growth in various countries but it had also increased inequalities.
As a concept, 'democratic socialism' is an anti-capitalist
movement or evolutionary socialism that aims to attain socialist
state through democratic means. On the other hand, 'social democracy'
is a mixed economy in which both public and private enterprises
exist at a time. These two concepts are frequently used interchangeably.
After the restoration of democracy in 1990, the government of
Nepal committed to providing free education up to the secondary
level. Now policies have been formulated to enhance the role
of cooperatives and NGOs in nation-building. The government
tried to uplift the languages of marginalized communities through
mass media. It has provided nominal cash allowances to senior
citizens, single women, the disabled, orphans and street children.
The conflict-victim children started to get free education up
to class ten and the Dalit children up to class 12.
For the effective implementation of social security programs,
the government should distribute social security cards to each
citizen. It may be highly useful to get development assistance
from ILO, UN and Nordic nations for preparing and implementing
the programs. As neo-liberal policies and globalization are
not propitious for the poor country like Nepal, there is the
need for social control over the surplus product for funding
social welfare system.
Commenting Adhikari's paper, professor Yagya Adhikari said
that they failed to do justice to BP Koirala as there has not
been enough research on his works and philosophy. The principles
of social democracy cannot be implemented in a mechanical manner.
We should be realistic. China has adopted state-led economy
with neoliberal policies. To the contrary, the US, a capitalist
nation, had bailed out banks, which went bankruptcy. Social
democratic tenets need to be applied according to our level.
Our country does not invest much in education sector and state-enterprises
become a breeding ground for corruption. State becomes gaunt
while the individuals fattens. We need good governance and have
to fix the role of state. Let's talk pragmatically.
The gist of Wagle's paper- 'Globalisation and social democracy
Social democracy and globalization are not necessarily anti-thesis.
But, the co-existence of both of these 'projects' needs common
space to adjust jostling elbows from both sides. Both of these
are expansive concepts with apparently inexhaustible array of
arguments and literature. And not to forget, there are very
useful complementary platforms both of these grand worldviews
can offer for their own co-existence and, more importantly,
for the betterment of our posterity.
Politically, the social democracy, at least in theory, promised
to extend the roots of democracy to the society. It made the
trade unions main vehicle for extending 'right-based' democracy
to the grassroots. Advocating a gradual reform in place of abrupt
revolution, this ideology assigns a greater role to the government
virtually in all aspects of economic and social operations-
production and distribution of goods and services and welfare
with egalitarian approaches and ensured trade union rights.
Apparently, globalization has two distinct faces. First is
the constructive face that has spontaneously taken its shape
with growing interconnectivity and interdependence among the
countries in multitude of dimensions and fields. The mesmerizing
growth of information technology, real time communication networks,
global e-commerce, transport connectivity, movement of people
across continents in unprecedented scale in history, rapid diffusion
of knowledge and technology, homogenization on foods and fashions,
increased interactions between the people of far-off locations
and many other similar dimensions have presented the world with
immense opportunities. Global comparisons of the political and
civic rights enjoyed by the populace of one country with other
have surely helped to uplift the socio-political conditions
of the hither to marginalized masses, by replicable examples
of infusions, positive discrimination and other forms of affirmative
actions. The future of social democracy, by definition, is dependent
on the depth and width of social deepening of democracy, in
a sense by making democracy a way of life to the lowest possible
layer of the social pyramid. But, Nepal's reality is that the
democratic practices within the so-called democratic parties
are also alarmingly inadequate. The knowledge and understanding
of democracy among the party functionaries that equip them for
critical and creative thinking are virtually non-existent.
Nepal has no alternative but to co-opt into some irreversible
tenets of globalization, both in market and politics. If we
look for larger space to wield our muscles, only way out to
that objective is to build our own internal strength in political
decision-making and economic profit generation. An open, democratic
and inclusive society is the necessary precondition to create
dynamic economy, ensure better social security and institutionalize
lasting democracy. In turn, only bigger pie of the economy we
create will make sense of inclusion and all right-based approaches.
In all, social democracy is social property.
Ram Prasad Gyawali's comment on Wagle's paper: What Wagle spoke
in the seminar is not related to his working paper. Therefore,
I will concentrate only on his paper. The theoretical paper
elaborately discusses social democracy but it is sad that the
writer fails to mention Nepali version of social democracy and
its exponents. Social democracy has become relevant today even
more than in the past. It has brighter future ahead. There is
the need for creating mechanisms to regulate globalisation.
When the capitalist nations are ready to intervene in the economic
sector, it is imperative for the social democratic nation to
follow suit for the larger interests of the people. The government
should be involved in delivering social good and services such
as education, health, road and arms.
The gist of Koirala's and Kafle paper- 'Retrospect and prospect
of Nepalese political economy'
Despite the high hope surrounding 1990 movement and movement
of 2062-2063 and also ouster of kingship and establishment of
Republic, there has not been clear break from the past. Instead
democracy came under the continued influence of traditional
elites. The holding of free election and unfettered operation
of political parties were welcome advances along the road towards
democratic Nepal but they alone do not constitute genuine democratisation.
Democracy requires democratisation of economic order and corresponding
measures of social justice. It also demands the development
of local level participatory democracy which will draw the politically
marginalised in the decision making process. Democracy in Nepal
has failed to cater the distribution of power and wealth in
favour of majority of Nepalese, who are poor.
Democracy has been most successful in those societies in which
political competition and development and institutionalisation
of parties precede the adoption of a democratic election system.
But, Nepali society faces double challenges. Not only has it
to institutionalise the democratic system of government but
the political parties themselves have had to be institutionalised.
All political parties are immature and unstable. Their ideological
position is confused and competing factions within themselves
threaten to tear them apart. The failure of leadership has been
immensely damaging Nepal's democratic prospects. Consensual,
pragmatic and accommodating leadership is vital to the survival
of democratic system. Although there is some debate over the
relationship between the level of economic development and the
success of democratic systems, in the case of Nepal, there can
be little question that economic failure will ultimately undermine
the functioning of democratic government.
Nepal's democracy emerged at a time when the ideology of right
had been established as a global truth. State intervention in
the economy was anathema to those preaching the benefits of
economic liberalism. Given the compromise nature of Nepali transition
and the country's abject poverty, extensive state intervention
was not only ideologically unacceptable but it was difficult
to implement. Yet, ironically, the transition to democracy in
classical western models was not accompanied by economic liberalism
but was characterised increasing state intervention in social
welfare provision. This gave the newly enfranchised masses a
stake in the system and fosters a belief that democracy meant
greater individual prosperity and not simply commitment to abstract
principles. Poverty stricken Nepali democracy, by contrast,
has been incapable of providing such reward to its citizens.
The sustainability of our democracy depends upon the pragmatic
and people- centred economic and social policy of the political
parties and the government in future taking into account Nepal's
sluggish growth, mass poverty, inequality, low level of saving
and investment and its need for regional and global connectivity.
The comments of Tika Pokhrel on their joint paper- The experiences
have shown that the political stability is not only a catalytic
factor to spur economic growth. Political changes take place
all of sudden but economic and social changes happen gradually.
First condition to ensure economic development is to put a system
in place. We did not have monitoring and regulating mechanism
to check the freewheeling market. We did not have also leaders
with personality. While taking major decisions related to the
fate of country and the people, the general public was not consulted.
When the country was declared a secular state, the people were
The gist of Santosh Pariyar's paper- 'National interest and
Surprisingly, the post cold war world has mostly been dominated
by the single political ideology called democracy. Democracy,
a massively acclaimed universally accepted governing ideology,
has hitherto not been criticised much. As a nation-state, Nepal's
appetite for democracy is greedy but placed in very strategic
land. Nepal's step towards democracy is inevitable. Many recent
discussions on democracy and national interest smell of antagonistic
elements. On one hand, democracy merely has become the compulsion
for the government to govern the people. On the other hand,
democracy, particularly driven by western philosophy, undermines
the local values and practices which embody the national interests.
It upholds the universal values of the governing system, whereas
local practise and values sometime and somehow do not care about
the universality because former may always not fit into the
format of locality. The history of each state varies from other
states and one context differentiates from another and this
makes a state unique with history and life. Democracy is a core
concern of the international community, whereas national interest
has been central to the state policies since ancient time. We
live in an unequal world. The differences among nations are
ubiquitous and their national interest is realised with their
differences. No political thinking and action can get its validity
until and unless it incorporates the basic premises of democracy.
In the history of state crafting, the national interest has
always been at the centre and the foreign policy of the state
massively dominated by the same. It is too tough to study democracy
and the national interests in a single box. The former needs
the latter and vice versa. Now the concept of majority rule,
based on numerical strength, has been stripped of. Perhaps,
democracy has now become the ultimate tool to incorporate aspirations
of the minorities. In both national and local sense, democracy
is the best of bottom-up unlike bureaucracy from top-down which
perhaps put forward the national feelings from bottom to top.
To protect Nepal's vital interest such as safeguarding the national
sovereignty and territorial integrity, it is not enough to be
democratic country itself. For that there must have respect
for democracy in the neighboring countries as well. Democracy
serves as an instrumental tool to shape and save national interests.
It helps formulate the short-term and long-term plans to meet
the national interests based on consensus. At present, Nepal
is going through very pessimistic process. In such a chaotic
situation, Nepal needs more vibrant democratic culture to have
common sense on some of its core national interests. The discourse
on the national interests has hardly been debated in the public
sphere. It has always been confined to the well furnished office
inside the Singh Durbar with the so-called big headed people.
Now this trend should be changed and the issue must be taken
to public space for the lively debate so as to make it more
democratic and transparent. Democracy and sincere national interest
serve the people better than any other system because the people
are at central of entire governing system in democratic set-up.
Shovakar Parajuli and Manohar Parajuli's comments on Pariyar's
paper: The alternative to democracy is better democracy. Truth
is relative. The new constitution should incorporate universal
values of democracy. Democracy and national interest are completely
two different concepts. Diplomacy is a better weapon for the
small nations to advance their cause.