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BP's thoughts still relevant

A seminar-cum-national conference of BP Thought Academy (BPTA)

05 May 2016, Kathmandu

Prepared by Ritu Raj Subedi

With the fierce rise of corporate-led globalisation, capitalism underwent a sea change. Backed by the cutting edge technology, it drastically altered operating style but succeeded to retain its core exploitive nature. The demise of communism gave it further latitude to operate in any part of world where labour, capital and technology are at its disposal. Liberalisation, market economy, privatisation and deregulation gained ground under the rubric of capitalism. Liberal democracy become its political ideology while mass consumerism, driven by media and Internet- boosted instinct, has kept it floating. Nonetheless, it has not become immune to the cyclic crises manifested in the Great Depression, recessions and financial crises. Because of its inhuman and unpredictable character, it continues to threaten human society even though it has shaken off its early ugly and crude forms. In the new century, social democracy has stood as strong deterrent to the pernicious ills of capitalism. It has the ability to expose the false consciousness capitalism creates in the modern society.

In Nepalese context, BP Koirala is credited to have espoused democratic socialism that is another appellation for social democracy. Like in Europe, many communist parties have also transformed themselves into social democratic party in Nepal though they have refused to shed their original nametag. The parties ranging from ultra right to ultra left to regional to ethnic claim they fight for the cause of socialism but its true praxis remains a far cry. BP Koirala offered only a thumbnail of his theory. As a result, his party- Nepali Congress and its leaders- were lost in the fog when it came to interpreting and practicing democratic socialism. The party has effectively become a market fundamentalist following its ascendency to power in 1990. It blindly pursued the policy of liberalisation and privatisation under the strict guidance of World Bank, Washington Consensus and other global organisations committed to promote capitalism worldwide. But, there is no dearth of people close to the NC, who are still following the principle of BP Koirala to build a moderate socialist state that ensures both political and economic freedom to the people. These loyalists have organised themselves under the banner of BP Thought Academy that continues to hold the flag of democratic socialism and carry out the activities to spread BP thoughts to the nook and cranny of the nation.

In a bid to breadth a fresh air into slackening socialist movement, the BP Thought Academy organised a seminar-cum-conference (2nd) in the capital on May 5. There key speakers viewed that BP's vision of democratic socialism still stands up as the nation practically entered into the federal, republican and secular era. "The nation has come to a pretty pass because the parties neglected BP's thoughts," they said in unison.

Supported by the FES Office Nepal, the conference had the theme of prosperous, self-reliant and strong nation. Nepali Congress president and former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, CPN-UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, Rastriya Prajatantra Party leader Dr Prakash Chandra Lohani, FES Nepal office head Dev Raj Dahal and BP Thought Academy Haribol Bhattarai delivered their speeches at the opening meeting followed by series of discussion sessions.

Sher Bahadur Deuba, Nepali Congress president and former prime minister

  1. No matter how much one appreciates BP Koirala's contribution and sacrifices, it will be less. He has been the source of inspiration for our party. BP's thoughts will continue to guide it in the years to come.
  2. BP was a towering and inspirational figure in the Nepalese BP had stressed the development of villages, which also laid the foundation of development of the nation as a whole.

Madhav Kumar Nepal, CPN-UML leader and former Prime Minister

  1. BP, a towering figure of Nepalese politics, should not be limited to any party. BP and Pushpalal are two unforgettable personalities, whose ideas spurred democratic movements in the nation.
  2. Recognising each other's existence and mutual tolerance is the essence of reconciliation. BP's principle of nationalism, democracy and socialism is relevant at present and in future too. Nationalism is the sum of territory, people and their loyalty to the nation. We must not be bogged down in the ethnic/regional quagmire.
  3. Traditional/orthodox capitalism and communism fell on the stony ground and therefore socialism should be based on the ground reality. We have made constitutional feat with the promulgation of the new statute that guarantees shelter, food, education, health and job to the citizens.
  4. Socialism cannot be realized through rhetoric and verbose. It requires true commitment and action. Curbing corruption and mafia is a must. Politicisation of every sector has reached epidemic proportions. We have to promote meritocracy.
  5. The new statute has envisioned a 3-pillar economy consisting of private sector, government and cooperatives. Nation's immense hydropower potentiality can be harnessed through cooperatives. Since cooperative model succeeded in Israel, Japan and Germany, there is no reason it can't be applied here.

Dr. Prakash Chandra Lohani, Rastriya Prajatantra Party leader

  1. Democracy without development is meaningless. Sadly, development agenda is not receiving priority.
  2. If we fail to stand united, the foreign meddling goes on. BP Koirala used to say that the political parties with national character should ally with the king to save the nation. We must refrain ourselves from indulging in the leg-pulling practice and strive for stability.
  3. Currently five types of socialisms exist in the world: A. Traditional/classical/orthodox Marxist system based on the state-centric and one-party rule. B. The state-driven/market oriented one-party system. C. Nehru-styled socialism in which the state controls private sector with multiparty democracy. D. A collaborative socialism based on the alliance between the state and capitalism under the multiparty democracy. E. Loot-cracy based on divide and share of power, pelf and post that is what is foisted upon us at the moment.
  4. BP stressed social and economic justice with the due participation of peasants in the national structures. There has not been management of land since king Mahendra launched land reforms some 50 years ago. The nation did not see the economic take-off as we failed to embrace BP's thoughts.

Sitadevi Yadav, NC treasurer

BP spent his childhood at Chandrajung Bazaar of Siraha and the locals have fond memories of him. This is a reason why the most of the people in the district cast their ballots in the support of multiparty system in the national referendum. The present government has shown indifference to the Terai/Madhes agitation.

Haribol Bhattarai, BP Thought Academy president

The nation came to a pretty pass with the neglect of BP thought. The new statute is good and can meet the aspirations of the people. Nationalism can be ensured only with independence. We need discipline, not anarchy. National prosperity and social justice form the basis of socialism. This requires clear vision, skilled management and a feeling of patriotism. Ethnic and regional issues have disturbed social harmony. Nepal ranks high in happiness index.

The gist of Dev Raj Dahal's speech

  1. The constitution, without enforcing authority of the state, is but a mere document, and of no strength to secure citizen's life, liberty and property. Different understanding of the constitution, however, makes a loss of its partial legitimacy and ability of state to enforce public order.
  2. Enlightenment about the ideals of constitution and the engagement of Nepali political parties, media and civil society enable them to wilfully determine principles of politics, law and development policies, exercise democratic choice and take social responsibility for their action. This helps them emancipate from the self-tutelage fostered by wrong socialisation process divorced from constitutional patriotism, ethical debate and self-discipline.
  3. So long as leaders are driven by universal ideologies of neo-liberalism, liberalism and communism, they will continue to contest national heritage, history and culture, spawning a gap with the citizens who are historically embedded in national life and governed by public reason derived from the sanity of public and national interest, tradition and faith.
  4. Irreconcilable demands of various political forces have reduced Nepali politics to impotence, making it unable to address the people's grievances. The conduct of politics as the basis of public interests can renew its validity and reconstruct its utility for citizens. Democratic politics delinks politics from violence and links it with legitimate compromise of interests, ideology and identity through peaceful negotiation and shared sacrifices for common good.
  5. Supremacy of constitutionalism puts a brake on several tendencies: perpetual redistributive struggle of wretched, tyranny of strong, winner-takes-all spiral through shifting numerical game of coalition politics and arbitrary action of the government. Constitutional politics marks departure from pre-modern politics of privilege and post-modern politics of stoking centrifugal tendencies to deconstruct the national centre for the retribalisation of society and re-feudalisation of the public sphere. Addressing grievances of the marginalised, constitutionalisation of actors and institutions, smooth communication and cooperative action, democratic culture and effective service delivery are necessary.
  6. Nationalism promotes national thought and converts the small identities into a national vision. Political leaders must have to create a common ground with each other and politically significant groups of society in the implementation of constitution. This fosters a viable path of democracy, justice, reconciliation and social peace.

Pushpa Parajuli, vice-chair BP Thought Academy

Corrupt and decadent people have been awarded by the party leadership. BP had warned that bhuiphutta barga (rootless class) captures the party after it reaches power. And true democrats have to wage another battle to save democracy. Now we are facing this situation. Democracy should be for poor and needy, not for the handful of cunning lots.

Bijula Barma, a delegate from Sindhuli

This is a time to swing into action, not merely making heaps of commitments. The nation may plunge into whirlwind of crisis if the leaders fail to demonstrate wisdom and discretion. Nationalism is under threat.

Narayan Prasad Koirala

The nation has subverted to the current plight because of the neglect of BP's thoughts. The leaders' character reflects the widespread thinking.

Suraj Raj Kafle

The state ignored our campaign that has spread to all 75 districts.

Janu Ghimire

Delegates from around attended the conference here to give direction to the Academy.

Deuba honours Das

Senior vice-chair of the Academy Sudista Lal Das was honoured for his contribution to the spread of BP thoughts through his relentless engagement in the Academy-led activities. NC president and former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba honoured him by presenting an appreciation letter. Das is the founding member of the Academy and served it in his capacity of secretary and vice-chair at different periods.

Academy general secretary Pradeep Koirala and treasurer Trilochan Poudel presented their reports at the conference. In their reports, they underscored the need for propagating the ideas and philosophy of BP Koirala. Poudel said that BP's thoughts have gained currency in the present context and it has become necessary to bring the historic documents and principles of iconic figure to the public. Academy general secretary Devendra Poudel said that around 300 delegates attended the three-day conference that deliberated on development discourse, the inner contents of statute and BP's policies.

Discussion session

Senior journalist Yuva Raj Gautam and political analyst Arun Subedi presented their working papers. Gautam's paper 'Nationality, democracy and BP Koirala's thoughts' and Subedi's 'BP Thought and present context' were discussed among the representatives heatedly and vigorously. Dr Tika Pokharel, Suraj Kafle and Binod Bhattarai commented Gautam's paper.

The gist of Gautam's paper

  1. Socialist philosophy stresses on a political roadmap guided by economic and social interventions. As per the concept of welfare state, democracy is a vehicle to smoothly reach socialism from capitalism. It provides equal opportunity to the farmers and workers by liberating them from the vicious cycle of poverty, inequality, suppressions and oppression.
  2. The NC that led the 1951 democratic revolution had played a vital role in disseminating the values of democracy, nationality and socialism. During its short tenure in office in early 60s, the NC-led government took drastic measures to abolish feudalism but it forgot all its socialist pledges following the 1990 change. The NC-led government sold off around 25 industries set up by the friendly nations at throwaway prices, forcing thousands of Nepalese out of jobs and the nation to be dependent on India.
  3. Following the 2006 April movement, the NC stepped into the shoes of ultra-left and accepted federalism, republican set-up and secularism. It has now lost its identity. Now foreign powers are hell-bent on destroying Nepali culture, religions and traditions by using all political parties as their stooge.
  4. Grishma Bahadur Devkota, in his 'Nepalko political darpan' writes: "Pundit Jawarlal Nehru was jealous of BP Koirala as the latter was vice-chair of Socialist International. So, he drove a wedge between them to dilute the power of junior Koirala."
  5. BP Koirala and king Birendra had identical views on constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. BP stood in favour of monarchy to protect nationality. So they respected each other. In his fierce debate with Sikkim's Kazi Lendup Dorje, BP had warned that Sikkim would lose its existence if king was thrown out of power. "We are fighting against monarchy for democracy but monarchy and the NC should join hands to save the nation," BP told Dorje.
  6. International conspiracies are in full swing in the Nepalese politics today. If this situation persists, Nepal's independence and nationality will further suffer a setback. Therefore, the political parties should give up their petty interests to bolster the national unity. If the NC moves ahead by embracing BP's thoughts, this will not only save the party but also national independence, unity and integrity. Dr Tika Pokharel
  7. There should not be any dilemma about the relevance of BP thoughts though two successive generations failed to translate them into practice. Rule of law, which is the key to the functional democracy, could not be fully maintained.
  8. Socialism means lifting the economic status of people. Nationality is a feeling that comes from the deep of heart. The state has to promote self-employment to stop them from going abroad for job. Suraj Kafle
  9. There has been review of oodles of literature on BP thoughts and principles. Now it is time to lay out programmes to implement them. BP's democratic socialism, which was propounded in the political and economic environ of 1960s, needs to be reinterpreted as per the present context.
  10. With the privatisation of national economy of Britain by the government of Margret Thatcher in 1983, and the 1989 Washington Consensus, the third nations were forced to follow liberalisation policy to get foreign aid that came with conditions attached.
  11. Foreigners began to butt in the internal affairs of the country in 2006, riding the issue of inclusion. Today the society has been socially, culturally and linguistically cleaved. Binod Bhattarai

Gautam's paper is biased against the NC and only highlights the role of king. Is it not the duty of king to protect nationality? BP had not always defended the kingship. Once he said: "If the king does not give rights to the people, the latter also do not give a hoot about the monarchy."

Pradeep Koirala said that BP Koirala returned home in 2033 BS with a view to reconcile with the king as nationality was under threat. Those, who backed the royal takeover in 2017 BS, had called BP traitor. Tej Raj Dhakal said that economic freedom in necessary in democracy. King Mahendra's move weakened both democracy and nationality. Industrial development is a must to benefit the working class.

Gist of Arun Subedi's paper

With the promulgation of the 1990 constitution, the NC had reached its political destination but failed to institutionalise the political gains enshrined in the national charter through the implementation of proper socio-economic and foreign policies. As a result, it created a breeding ground for rebellion. The NC compromised with the rebel forces, forgetting its own principle and identity. Today, the NC no longer remains as NC in terms of ideology and ideals. Following its recent convention, it has shown some signs to atone for its deviation and take self-correcting course.

What it should do?

    1. It needs to review its past political decisions and take initiatives to amend the statute based on its theoretical identity.
      a. Federalism - Federalism was raised on the basis of identity. So, the NC has to either accept identity or reject it.
      b. Form of governance - It is a wrong to conclude that parliamentary system became a failure in Nepal. Rather, it is the model of co-work between communist and monarchy that became unsuccessful. There is no need for the search of an alternative to the parliamentary democratic system.
      c. Republican set-up- The NC should be ready for the restoration of monarchy if the ex-king makes self-criticism for his past deeds and beseeches the people, political parties and international community for the recognition of its limited role.
      d. Secularism- Secularism has destroyed the basis of national unity so the urgent step has to be taken to declare Nepal a Hindu kingdom.

    2. Review of economic and social policies:
      A. The government has to take the responsibility of social sector while the private sector should run industries and trade.
      B. The government should sit for collateral of loans for the projects run with state coffers or under the banks' control.
      C. The monetary and trade policies need a radical overhaul.
      D. Stress should be laid on the increase of productivity of land instead of its plotting. The ceiling on the productive land should be lifted. There should be ceiling in the ownership of unproductive land. Duel ownership of land by the government and private sector should be abolished.
      3 Foreign policy: The foreign policy adopted by the NC as well as BP came a cropper. A two-layer foreign policy is needed. At first layer comes India and China followed the remaining nations.
      4 Water resources- The government has to take initiatives for co-work with India for the coordination between its river-link project and World's Bank Ganges Valley strategic project.


Relevance of BP thought in development model

BP's 'small is beautiful' model has limited scope in the present context with the intense development of capital. There has been a sea change in the sources of production and nature of capital since then. The NC is confused about establishing the relevance of BP's thought. This resulted in the rapid privatisation of social sector and discouragement of public sector.

The three-day conference adopted a 9-point declaration. Some important points are as follows:

1. The state has to embrace the socialist thoughts of BP Koirala.
2. To hold the local elections at the earliest.
3. To settle the contested issues of the constitution through referendum.
4. All should be engaged in maintaining communal harmony.
5. To start constructive campaign against corruption.
6. To establish cordial ties with India and China by taking them into confidence.
7. To amend the constitution to resolve the Terai-Madhes problem if necessary.
8. To provide safe residences to the quake victims within this year.

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