I heartily welcome all international guests who have, at the invitation of our Party, come to Nepal from different countries to participate in this programme. We had made a plan some time ago for grand celebrations of Karl Marx’s bicentennial birth anniversary. However, as we were occupied with very important national priorities such as elections, government formation, and party unification, we had to invite you to this event at a short notice. We can understand your inconvenience caused due to this. Nevertheless, through your participation in this programme, you have demonstrated a sense of friendship as well as acknowledgedthe importance of this Seminar theme. We are truly grateful to you all.
Karl Marx’s birth bicentenary is a very appropriate context in order to seriously deliberate on his life and ideas that made unmatchable contributions to humanity, to reinforce our unwavering commitment towards socialism, and to learn from each other’s experiences. Furthermore, organization of such event in Nepal has a special significance as the leftist parties here have become dominant forces with almost two-thirds majority through popular votes, at a time when the world socialist movement is undergoing various practices, ups and downs, successes, and challenges. I am confident that this Seminar will be instrumental in achieving further ideological clarity about socialism that befits the specialty of the twenty-first century and in injecting dynamism to our incessant journey towards socialism.
Karl Marx is the most influential intellectual figure of our time. His life was such aturning point in history from where a new epoch began. Lord Buddha said twenty-five hundred years ago: there is suffering in the world; there are reasons for this suffering; emancipation from such suffering is possible; and there are ways to end this suffering. The working class of our time got swamped in suffering because they did not know the reasons of their misery, nor did they know the ways to end it. Some thinkers imagined an ideal world of socialism, but it remained a mere dream due to the lack of a scientific perspective to reach there. Karl Marx brought forth such a ‘beacon’ that helped the working class understand themselves, the reasons of their suffering, and the ways to end such suffering. After that, the proletariats, who were previously living with delusion, had their efforts of being proactive, organized and revolutionized in the right direction. Marx’s philosophy of dialectic materialism paved the way for scientific understanding of structure and nuances of human life and the world, which otherwise looked enigmatic in the absence of right approaches. Historical materialism opened up new horizons of the interpretation, understanding and possibilities about social reality. The philosophy that was understood merely as a means to explain and understand the world became a tool to change it. The theory of scientific socialism provided the working class with a clear direction for future and a strong confidence for victory.
Marx’s ideas tremendously influenced the world in 19th and 20th centuries. Marx has contributed primarily to philosophy, economics and politics but no particular discipline of social sciences remains untouched by Marxism. Along with the wider influence of Marxism, remarkable changes have occurred including in the areas of balance of power in the world, international relations, role of the State and Citizen-State relations, and social arrangements. The liberation struggle against economic exploitation and social oppression has become stronger. Significant achievements have been made in promoting rights of women, who constitute half of the society, as well as those of laborers, oppressed communities, youths and children. Marxism is not only an influential intellectual movement; it is proven as an ideological tool in people’s struggle for justice, equality and freedom as well as for nations’ movement for independence. That’s why Karl Marx was voted, in an independent survey, as ‘the greatest thinker’ to have influenced the second millennium. Marxism has become more relevant in the twenty-first century which, despite modernization and development in different social aspects, continues to be marked by deepening economic disparity, culmination of capitalist crisis and intensification of humanity’s struggle for justice, equality, freedom and prosperity.
The October Socialist Revolution, which took place in Russia over a hundred years ago tried to materialize people’s age-old aspirations for instituting their own governance. The workingclass acquired the State power for the first time. In addition to the basic physical needs of human beings, the socialism-induced gains in the fields of education, health, sports, entertainment, and human dignity and rights were unmatchable. These human values were so invincible that capitalism, which saw nothing but profit, was compelled to take some reformative steps and confirm them through some gestures. This established the idea that seemingly indomitable capitalism could be defeated and that new social structure is possible in the interest of working class people. However, due to internal weaknesses and some external factors, the world’s first socialist regime lasted only for 70 years. Truth may be suppressed but cannot always be negated. People’s movements may be subdued at times but the impacts and possible resurgence of such movements cannot be blocked forever. The socialism ‘sketched’ through the October Revolution and its long-lasting impacts are equally relevant in today’s world.
The Capitalists were euphoric with the dissolution of the USSR. Many capitalists think –tanks claimed ‘the demise of ideology’, ‘the end of history’, and that Marxism and Socialism ‘had become irrelevant’. But their superfluous and subjective conclusions were diffused by the success of socialist movements in many countries and by the global financial crisis that started in the last decade. Depression following that crisis shook the very foundation of unregulated market economy and neoliberalism. Global capitalism has not been able to recover from this shock even today despite spending billions of dollars from State coffers to bail out a few bankers, real state owners and a handful of elites at the cost of common workers’ interests. Economic inequality has been so aggravated that 99 percent of the global income is owned by one percent population. Millions of workers have been forced to ‘precariat’ class due to the loss of labor security. Ideology and politics have been sidelined and this vacuum has paved the way for extremism and terrorism to further deepen the social divide. The much-hyped notion that open market economy and neoliberalism have got final victory has been proved as a deception. Hence, indispensability of socialism has been further reinforced.
Capitalism can prolong its existence by finding a provisional solution to its crisis, but it does not have a sustainable remedy. This very internal crisis of capitalism will inevitably destroy it sooner or later. Though the humanity will undoubtedly reach the destination of socialism, the crisis of capitalism itself is not an assurance of automatic victory for socialism. The former surely opens up doors of alternatives. But, success of socialism is founded on its own ideological, political, organizational and socio-cultural strengths. Socialist movement is moving forward through various forms and contours in today’s world. Countries like China, Vietnam, Cuba and Laos are developing socialism that has its own unique features. In Nepal, we have been preparing a foundation of socialism by establishing people’s government through peaceful means of democratic competition. In different countries, the Communist parties are carrying out struggles for socialism from both parliament and street. Various other social movements are also moving forward against economic exploitation and social oppression, with a view to promoting social justice, peace, environment protection as well as rights for all. Among these movements, laborer’s struggle for decent work and women’s fight for equal rights are of special significance. All these developments are components of socialist movement in general.
Scientific socialism was not a mere fanciful creation of the brilliant minds of Marx and Engels. It was propounded at the foundation of the historical necessity of a scientific theory to solve complex contradictions prompted by capitalist production relations and liberate the working class. Marxist principles are equally relevant and appropriate today.
But, Marxism is not a ready-made solution toevery problem, nor is it a fixed formula for all times and places. Rather, it is a scientific methodologyto understand, interpret and transform societies. Every nation as well as society has its special and different characteristics owing to its historical development, socio-economic structure, level of class struggle and cultural traditions, among others. These differences also render the revolution of a country and its path towards socialism very unique and special. The very first responsibility of Communists, in every country, is to identify the characteristics of the social and national context in light of the universal Marxist principles, and to formulate and develop unique principles of revolution and socialism based on those features. Failure to do so will force us either to dogmatism and mechanical imitation or it will deviate us from basic principles of Marxism in an attempt to pursue ‘pragmatism’. Both are detrimental to the socialist movement.
We do not imitate any model of revolution, movement, change or transformation. Likewise we do not prescribe any model to others.
At some time, it was considered that there was one communist center of the world; and a single socialist model was deemed exemplary and ideal. Movements in many places confronted setbacks while trying to imitate the direction of such center. The working class expresses solidarity with each other’s movements, helps each other in need and wants to learn from each other. However, a progressive and socialist movement can be developed only in an endogenous manner.
It has been 200 years since Marx was born and 170 years since the Communist Manifesto was published. In these years, fundamental changes have taken place across the world in relation to labor forms, labor relations, modes of exploitation, capitalism structure, relations among countries, science-technology and production system, trade, consumption and global polity. Today, time has changed; context is new; and approaches are different, that’s why, new questions have arisen before the Movement. Marxists should have innovative vision and capabilities to address the questions.
Despite globalization, the world economic structure has become more disparate due to unequal distribution of benefits and excessive centralization of wealth. Variations can be seen in revolutions and socialist movements in different countries depending on their conditions. The implementation of Marxism according to the ground realities has been widely realized.
Nepali people’s political struggle and movement has a long and glorious tradition. In early days, it emerged as a patriotic movement for country’s unification and against British imperialist aggression. Because of that bravery of our predecessors, Nepal has a proud identity of an ever-independent country that was never colonized. Prior to taking a clear political course, the movement took forms of social reforms and ‘humanist’ struggles against conservatism, superstition and discrimination. Rebellious pioneers like Yogmaya, Saint Sashidhar Swami, Jaya Prithvi Bahadur Singh, Lakhan Thapa and Krishnalal Adhikari were the spearheads of such movements. Later, it gradually grew stronger as a democratic movement against the autocratic Rana Regime. The sacrifice of Gangalal, Dasharath Chand, Sukraraj Shastri and Dharmabhakta Mathema was a distinct example in that movement. Nepali communist movement was born under the legacy of all these streams.
Though Nepal started trading much earlier, the capitalist production process began in Nepal in 1930s. This gave birth to two classes at the same time- the working and capitalist classes. Nepal Communist Party was established as a representative of the working class in 1949 and around the same time Nepali Congress was established representing the capitalist class. Along with this, socialist and bourgeois democratic streams emerged as the representative ideologies of those two classes.
Nepal Communist Party had clear objectives to end feudalism and establish people’s democracy with the guideline of Marxism and Leninism; protect national independence thereby opposing imperialistic and hegemonic interference; and to build an equitable, just and prosperous socialist society. Nepal Communist Party has been, right from the beginning, leading Nepal’s democratic movement in a comprehensive manner against all forms and means of dictatorship. Nepali communists have proved themselves as good friends, true representatives and torch bearers of the working class people in fulfilling their aspirations.
Seventy-year long history of communist movement has experienced highs and lows. Nepal Communist Party, which played equally important role in overthrowing Rana regime, was initially suppressed and later banned by the then Nepali Congress government. Despite of these obstacles, it led strong peasant movements; opposed foreign interference; and struggled for people’s rights in 1950s. It experienced painful series of division and disintegration in 1960s. This also weakened its resisting power. At this backdrop, Jhapa Uprising ensued in early 1970s that proclaimed a bold rebellion for people’s republicanism against monarchy. It set a foundation for building the communist party on the basis of new ideology and unification of communist groups right from the grass-roots level. It established new values of sacrifice, dedication and devotion through unprecedented awakening of young generation towards revolutionary ideology. Due to inability to embrace right perspectives and lack of adequate experiences, there were some missteps pertaining to ultra-leftism. But devoted revolutionaries corrected them through serious self-assessment. From 1980s, a serious ideological discussion on new interpretation of Nepal’s history, analysisof social character,identification of principal contradiction and charting out of endogenous programs and special path of Nepali socialist movement began in the party. After a long course of extensive discussion, we propounded our distinct and innovative way for Nepali revolution under the leadership of comrade Madan Bhandari, which is known as People’s Multiparty Democracy.
Similarly, another group under Nepal’s Communist Movement emerged first with the name of Central Nucleus, and later as Fourth Convention, Mashal and Masal before it was renamed as Nepal Communist Party (Unified Center). This also played an important role in the Movement. The same stream was later developed as NCP (Maoist).
International communist movement was facing an upheaval at the time when the ideology of People’s Multiparty Democracy was being propounded. On the one hand, dissolution of the USSR, the first socialist regime in the world, and dislodgement of socialist governments in Eastern Europe were generating disillusionment; and on the other hand, communist parties pursuing armed rebellion had been facing severe setbacks. Apparently, it looked as if the era of proletariats that began with the October Revolution came to an end. The movement was facing new questions and challenges.
Deviation and defection from Marxism would not have been the answers to those questions. Neither would the problem have been solved by dogmatic recitation of the classical texts. In fact, the crisis seen in the communist movement was not because of the inherent weakness of Marxism, it was rather the result of some flaws in the modalities and practices adopted in its application. Based on the assumption of innovative use of Marxism, we focused on the distinctive attributes of Nepali society and practiced Marxism accordingly. We introduced a slogan; “Let’s oppose liquidationism and dogmatism, let’s strive for innovative application and development of Marxism”.
This left an extraordinary mark in our society. Communist Movement in Nepal was climbing up towards the peak of its popularity. This astonished the world. American magazine Newsweek’s coverage on Madan Bhandari, under the title ‘In Nepal, Karl Marx lives’ was the manifestation of how the world was watching development in Nepal with great interest. In an independent survey, Madan Bhandari was voted as the ‘Man of the Century’ to have greatly influenced the Nepali society in the twentieth century. Nepali communists emerged as a largest party in 1994/95, to run the government which was very successful, albeit a short one in tenure. The idea of People’s Multiparty Democracy has contributed enormously in popularizing the communist movement, establishing its legitimacy and steering the movement ahead amidst adverse circumstances on both domestic and external fronts. It has nullified the capitalists’ conventional allegations against Communist Party and the Movement. The credit for establishing widely accepted propositions including the innovative development of Marxism, democratization of the Communist Movement and transformation of society through peaceful as well as legitimate means goes indeed to the thoughts put forward by Madan Bhandari.
On the other hand, Maoist armed struggle began in February 1996. That decade-long struggle made important contributions in bringing about political awareness among the oppressed communities, wearying away feudalism, promoting constituent assembly and republicanism as national agenda, and promoting the issue of inclusion in politics. Serious discussions between CPN (UML) and NCP (Maoist) were held on various political issues, which formed the basis of cooperation between the then seven mainstream parties and NCP (Maoist). This cooperation drove the overall course leading to the historical political change in 2006. Peace process began in Nepal. The happy outcome of this decade-long process is right in front of us. On the one hand, we have promulgated the Constitution that incorporates the values of social justice, fundamental freedoms and socialism-oriented vision. On the other hand, the historic unification between CPN (UML) and NCP (Maoist Center) has been resulted in the formation of the strongest political party in Nepal. The main political attributes of this party include ideological direction- Marxism-Leninism, programme- people’s democracy based on multiparty competition and democratic values, and main responsibility – socio-economic transformation and building a strong national economy with socialist orientation, and political direction- achieving supremacy through peaceful democratic means.
At present, Nepal Communist Party enjoys almost two-thirds majority in federal parliament, six of the seven provinces and majority of local governments. It has been established as a party with a wide base of over 53% of popular votes. People have given us a mandate, through recent elections, to run the government thereby supporting our agenda of political stability and economic prosperity. Now, the government has concentrated all its efforts on realizing the motto of “Prosperous Nepal and Happy Nepali”. Our goals are very clear- to graduate from the LDC status by 2022 and to transform the country to the status of a middle-income country by 2030. Our destination is clear- development of socialism having typical Nepali attributes. Our priorities are clear- enhancement of nationalism, institutional development of democracy, strengthening of national unity on the basis of social harmony, achievement of social justice and equality by ending all forms of discrimination, inequality and suppression and attainment of economic development and prosperity within a short period of time. For this, the path towards economic development is clear- effective and leading role of the government, economic policy guaranteeing meaningful and robust participation of private sector, effective role of cooperatives and community sector, foreign investment in national priority areas, and different models of public private partnerships. Our focus is on ensuring the rule of law, equal rights, opportunities, security and dignity for all Nepalis. We put emphasis on good governance encompassingaccountability, transparency, austerity and eradication of corruption.
Ladies and Gentlemen
We, as a country, have a glorious history of over three thousand years. Nepal is a multiethnic, multilingual and multicultural nation having the harmonious domicile of people belonging to diverse languages, cultures and religions. Diversity and plurality mark the identity of our geography and society. Peace, tolerance, and respect for the opinion and faiths of others are our defining features. Justice and democracy are our social characteristics. Ancient civilizations such as Mithila, Shakya, Khas, Kirat and Bagmati have contributed in forming a distinctive Nepali identity. These social characteristics have been reflected in our ideology.
As stated above, there are different traditions of Nepali people’s struggles. Nepali Communist Movement has adopted the legacy of these historical traditions of our predecessors and has given socialist character to such traditions.
It is true that the ideas such as competitive multiparty system of governance, constitutional supremacy, periodic elections, human rights, check and balance as well as separation of powers, and independent judiciary were developed during the course of anti-feudal revolution. However, these are not essentially capitalist in nature as some people tend to argue. These are in fact the achievements of humanity. Capitalism has been appropriating these issues to legitimize its rule and apparently show that it cares for people. When working class people have handed a blow to capitalist exploitations, through their struggles, capitalism has undermined these values, and even accepted the nonsensical assumption of ‘by-birth supremacy’. Therefore, it is imperative that working class take recourse to these democratic values and principles. The content of any regime is determined by the class which the rulers represent and by those who control state machinery and economy. Governance system is merely the form. That is why, our principles of people-centered state and governance system of competitive democracy are coherent. This is evident if seen in light of form-substance and reality-appearance dichotomy of Marxist philosophy.
We believe that as long as society remains class-based and diverse, it is natural for multiparty system to exist commensuratewith this social character. Therefore, we have adopted a policy of establishing supremacy through competition. The constitution and law control and should continue to control those who attempt to reverse the course of change, divide, disintegrate and take society backwards.
Communists are those protagonists who represent people’s interests. So, they must not follow and adopt practices, behavior and methods that people do not like and accept.
Use of force, resistance and struggle were natural when colonization was in itsheyday in the world; nations were suppressed, and people’s rights and desires of independence was ruthlessly subdued by foreign powers; and people were exploited under the brutal rule of authoritarian regimes. But, violence is neither a mandatory means nor a subject matter of ideology for revolution. Today, time and context have changed. Colonial era has ended. Totalitarian regimes have fallen. The twenty first century has made it possible to transform society in a peaceful and democratic manner. Violence cannot be a matter of choice when opportunities for using peaceful and legitimate means and methods are available. In this context, it is not sufficient to fuss about waves of revolution by standing in the lagoon; but it is necessary to establish the worth of revolution by going deep into the “sea of people” and fighting the regressive waves of a society.
Therefore, we have embarked on an endogenous path towards peaceful attainment of socialism through the constitution written by ourselves and through legitimate means and people’s mandate.
In order to attain the objective of “Prosperous Nepal and Happy Nepali” we have adopted relevant and positive historical values and discarded unnecessary ones. As outlined by late Madan Bhandari, lifeis not for ideology, rather ideology is for life. Nepali Communist Movement represents the aspirations of common people by placing their interests at the center. We have not only focused on political arrangements, but also emphasized the founding of a society based on high moral and cultural values. We pursue a foreign policy of maintaining close relations with neighbours and all friendly countries on the basis of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, non-interference and mutual respect and benefits. The size of countries can be different in terms of geography and population, but sovereignty and national esteem have the same value for all. That is why interference, dominance and undermining others can’t be acceptable.We stand for the peaceful resolution of international disputes and believe that current global political and economic order should be changed by prioritizing the interests of developing countries and their people.
This year marks the beginning of the seventieth year of Nepali Communist Movement. When we look back into these seven decades, there are a lot of achievements to be proud of. Today, we are, based on people’s mandate, the largest political party with clear majority. We have been successful in being a leading force of Nepali democratic movement and a major force of social change. At patriotic and nationalistic front, we stand almost as the lone force.
We have accomplished most of the historical political responsibilities entrusted upon us. Three different authoritarian regimes have been dethroned. Federal democratic republic has been established and governance under the constitution written by people’s elected representatives has begun. Now we have a responsibility to attain economic prosperity in a short period of time while consolidating the political gains achieved so far. There is no reason for this country to lag behind economically. This is the country which is endowed with precious blessing of the nature; it is the land of incredible cultural heritage; it has young people with energy and valor and has the legacy of brave, learned and innovative ancestors; it was disseminating peace, kindness and wisdom across the globe when some other countries were reeling under the medieval age and some were not even born; and it was able to function as an entrepot between India and China some 3/4 hundred years ago. However, the bitter truth is: we are lagging behind in several development indices today. We are in the state of under-development. Now is the time for Nepali Communists to shoulder the responsibility to change this condition. We communists who led the movement to overthrow the autocratic regimes in the past are now in a struggle against poverty, deprivation and backwardness and we have a firm belief that, as in democratic movements, we will be more effective champions in our movement for social transformation and economic prosperity. Thirty years from now, when Nepali Communist Movement will have been hundred years old, Nepal will have reached closer to the level of a developed country, both in material and cultural terms. We will be able to tell our future generations that Nepali Communist Movement has proved its relevance by building a prosperous Nepal; and has successfully fulfilled the responsibility placed upon our shoulders by history.
In a special program organized in Kolkata in 1994 and attended by Communist and Labour parties from across the globe, late Madan Bhandari said that capitalist system could not be, as advocated by capitalists, an alternative to socialism even if Marxism confronted some occasional blows. The experience of application of Marxism in different countries shows that there is a need of reinterpretation and redefining of Marxism so that the process can help prove that freedom, liberation and progress of humanity, end of social exploitation, and development of production forces is possible only under Marxism; and that Marxism ensures its relevance. A new thinking is required to successfully and effectively use Marxism in the contemporary world.
We are doing exactly the same in Nepal. For this, we need your wider support and solidarity.
This is the paper presented by Prime Minister and Chairman of NCP, KP Sharma Oli at the International Seminar on Marxism and Socialism organized in Kathmandu, Nepal commemorating Bicentenary of Karl Marx on 30 May 2018.