Comrade Basanta on ‘Identity Politics’

(After a long gap we are posting the article of Comrade Indra Mohan Sigdel ‘Basanta’, the Politburo member of CPN-Maoist. The issue of ‘ Federal System’  and  the ‘Politics of  (single!)  Identity’ has produced a lot of debate and discussion in the Nepalese Politics as well as within the Maoist Party too. First of all, we want to make clear that we revolutionaries- our Intellectual Front : The Next Front always discards the politics of single identity. Not only the question of ‘single identity’ the ‘identity politics’ itself is  the deviation from the class question. And the main motto of Maoist revolutionaries is not the federal system, but the New Democratic Revolution, which decides the structural question and other issues.   Basically we support the opinion expressed by Comrade Basanta. But there are some issues to be discussed.  And The Next Front wants to open the  floor for debate and discussion.)

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The question of national identity and emancipation

 Now-a-days, the question of national identity has been extensively spelt all across Nepal. Almost all of the political parties have been desperately entangled around federalism and the question of identity. Whether the federalism will base on one-nation identity or multi-nation one has become a centre of debate at present. The UML has organisationally split on account of inner-party debate centred on this very issue and the debates smouldering in other parties too have not been resolved. If this problem is not addressed correctly, the unitary feudal ultra-nationalism in the pretext of national unity and imperialism in the name of multi-national identity will certainly engage in this issue and the whole country, not a few parties only, will be caught up in the communal dispute. It cannot be ruled out that this dispute may result in national disintegration. The slogans chanted all across the country on or before last May 27 clearly indicate it. This short article will focus on what the root of national problem is in Nepal, how should it be addressed and how can the national unity be achieved amid national diversity.

There is some ambiguity in understanding the correct meaning of the Nepali words like Jati and Rastra in Nepal. Some regard Jati as the caste or Rastra as the country. It is not correct. In fact, both of the terms Jati and Rastra have the same meaning and it is nation in English. The Nepali word Janajati refers to as indigenous nationality, which is not fully developed in the form of a nation.

In an important article ‘Marxism and the national question’, Stalin has clearly defined the term nation. According to him, “A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” He further adds, “It must be emphasized that none of the above characteristics taken separately is sufficient to define a nation. More than that, it is sufficient for a single one of these characteristics to be lacking and the nation ceases to be a nation.” This is believed to be the most scientific and correct definition of nation.

However, there is hardly a country in the world that is inhabited by only one nation. The country inhabited by many nations is known as a multinational country. The nations other than in the power are the oppressed ones. In the present era of imperialism and proletarian revolution, the entire working class and the people from the oppressed nations fall under the twofold oppression of imperialism and its domestic puppets. Lenin has put forward a concept of the right of the nations to self-determination to get rid of the oppression by imperialism and the domestic national chauvinist rulers. It includes the political right of the oppressed nations to secede. The national liberation movement, which aims at establishing the right of nations to self-determination, is nothing but a kind of bourgeois democratic movement. Lenin has time and again emphasized that those who do not agree with the right of the nations to self-determination cannot become a communist.

It has been already mentioned above that five conditions like common culture, common language, common geographical territory, common economic life and common psychological make up, are the obligatory conditions that a certain community needs to become a nation. On account of these conditions, none of the communities residing in Nepal has developed as a nation. The Newar and Madheshi communities are relatively advanced in our context, but they too are not developed to the level of nations. In the given context of Nepal, the right of nations to secede is not at all practicable. Indigenous nationalities are oppressed in Nepal, though they are prevailing in size of population. The national oppression has been manifested in the form of cultural, lingual, regional and religious forms. The road to liberation in Nepal cannot be a mechanical replica of others but should agree with our particular characteristics. Along these lines, our party has put forward federalism with autonomy as a way to liberation from national oppression in Nepal.

Our party’s first National Conference held in 1995 had adopted an important document named “A proposal on the nationality policy in Nepal”. Along with identifying the root causes of national problems in Nepal the document had also provided scientific and objective solution to them. The issues raised by the document, which was adopted about 19 years before, are basically correct and valid even today. The very document has been the theoretical basis of our party’s national policy till date.

The said document writes, “As because the feudal Hindu-high-nation reactionary state power buttressed by imperialism has been the main cause of national problem in Nepal, the national emancipation is not possible until the state power of the oppressed people has been built up after destroying the old. What has been clear from the historical experiences till date is that the national liberation movement is related with class struggle i.e. the class power. The national liberation movement, which is accomplished in a semi or neo-colonial country, is in essence a democratic movement against the feudal, imperialist and expansionist oppression. From the historical experiences it has been clear that the proletariat, the most oppressed class in such countries, is the only class that can lead such movements. Therefore, the national liberation movement in Nepal is naturally linked with the new democratic movement led by the proletariat and the former can in no case be separated from the later. After the destruction of feudal Hindu-high-nation reactionary state through such movements, the new democratic republic, which is established as a joint dictatorship of the oppressed masses led by the proletariat, can in the real sense solve the national problem in Nepal.”

The long excerpt above clarifies two points. First, the main tool behind the oppression of the working class and the oppressed national, lingual and regional communities in Nepal is a reactionary state power based upon the unholy coalition of feudalism and imperialism and second, the new democratic power, established under the leadership of the proletariat after destroying the old state power, opens simultaneously the door of liberation of working class and the oppressed nations as well. This is the basic doctrine of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and a slight departure from this position does not serve the interest of the oppressed people but does so to the reactionary class. On the basis of this doctrine and agreeing in principal the right of the nations to self-determination, our party has taken up a policy of reorganising state power on the basis of federalism with autonomy so that it paves the way for liberation from national, lingual and regional oppression.

In the particular condition of Nepal, there is no single national or lingual community residing in any part of Nepal. Therefore, special attention should be paid on the fact that other communities must not be deprived of their rights when a particular national or a lingual community entertains its right. In no situation must the emancipation of one nation be a cause of oppression upon another. In view of the Nepalese particularity, our party has put forward a proposal of 14 federal states with autonomous right. They are: Limbuwan, Kochila, Kirat, Bhotelama, Mithila, Tamsaling, Bhojpura, Newa, Tamuwan, Awadh, Magarant, Tharuwan, Bheri-Karnali and Seti-Mahakali. In case other oppressed communities reside in any of these main autonomous federal states, the oppression upon them shall be solved by organising sub-autonomous regions within them. And apart from this, our party has taken a clear policy in which proportional inclusive representation in all the organs of the states shall be guaranteed to the oppressed communities including religious minorities and Dalit communities as well. It is the correct Marxist policy and method our party has adopted to end all sorts of oppressions including class, national, lingual and regional ones from Nepal. Our party is clear in it and nowhere has it deviated from.

Regardless of such a clear party policy, several questions have come up from different angles at the later time centring on the national problems. Some of the party comrades who have come from different nationalities doubt that party has deviated from its earlier correct stand on the nationality question while others presume that party has deviated from its earlier class position. The reason behind it is not that the party policy was unclear on this issue rather reality was that party failed to clearly put forward its stance when a question on the nationality issue was sharply posed. Mainly the internal situation of the erstwhile party, the UCPNM, had worked from behind it to happen. When there was a sharp debate on single nation identity and federalism right in the CA, at that very time the two-line struggle in the party also became serious. In that very situation, the necessity of the revolutionary faction to emphasize on the more important ideological and political questions pushed the temporarily less important issues a little back. For that reason we failed on the one hand to adequately expose the opportunist position of Prachanda-Baburam clique on the national question and on the other we lagged behind in exposing the reactionary conspiracies that the feudal ultra-nationalists had hatched against federalism in the name of territorial integrity and that the imperialists had hatched against national harmony in the name of national identity. In such a situation, it was natural to arise some question vis-à-vis our ideological faction too. We don’t have that obligatory situation now, when we have organisationally ruptured from the neo-revisionist Unified Maoist.

In the present context, when the question of restructuring of the state is under debate mainly four options have been put forward. They are: one, the unitary state two, federalism based on geographical division three, federalism based on single nation identity and four, federalism based on multi-nation identity. The first and the second options, though they seem to be different in form, have both come from the feudal reactionary angle. So, they don’t have difference in essence and the people do not have confusion in them. But other two options, whether the basis of federalism will be single-identity or multi-identity has created some confusion. It needs some discussion.

The constitution must guarantee the identity of the entire oppressed nations, there can be no debate in it. Here, the question is: what is the need of the day, national identity only or the liberation from national oppression? Obviously, the main question is the liberation of the oppressed nation. But it is not possible without class liberation. A part of the document quoted above has clarified it. There can be no any revision in its essence.

At present, a question whether single or multi-nation identity based federalism shall be adopted in Nepal has been posed sharply. But, there is no difference in essence between these two. They are so brought as to de-link the national oppression with class exploitation. But in form, they have some difference too. The federalism based on single-nation identity has been put forward by mainly those elite class ultra-nationalists who come from oppressed nationalities where as the federalism based on multi-identity has been raised mainly by imperialism, expansionism and their puppets. Of course, the truth is that both of these positions have been brought as to de-link the relation between national liberation movement and the new democratic revolution. The federalism that does not go along with the programme of class liberation can in no way liberate the Nepali oppressed nationalities. This is the key point.

Along with the class and national liberation, the communists struggle for the identity of all nationalities. It is said that there are more than 120 registered nationalities in Nepal. The forthcoming constitution must guarantee the identity and liberation of all of them. It is absolutely wrong to organise separate federal states for individual national identities and it is ridiculous too. Evidently, there will be several nationalities in a federal state, but the identity of one nationality must not become a cause of oppression upon another. Thus, the federalism must be based on multi-nation identity not on single nation and it cannot be materialised until and unless it is made a part and parcel of the new democratic revolution led by the party of the proletariat.

The federalism based on single nation or multi-nation identity alone is not a solution of the problem faced by oppressed nationalities in Nepal. National identity is ensured only when there is national liberation, but its opposite is not always true. The way to liberation of the entire oppressed classes, regions and sex including the oppressed nations is the establishment of People’s Federal Republic of Nepal, which paves the way forward to new democratic revolution. Either all of the oppressed people will be liberated at once or none. No other way exists except this to liberate the oppressed nations and ensure their identity in Nepal.

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