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Nepal's Political Path: Towards Communism or Capitalism?

२०७९ मंसिर २८ बुधबार

- Abinav Acharya


Nepal has a long history of political instability, from overthrowing the monarchy to experiencing the guerilla insurgency, the 2000s civil war, and finally drafting a new constitution that recognized Nepal as a secular, federal, democratic republic aspiring toward democratic socialism.


The roots of communism in Nepal can be traced back to the pro-democracy movement of 1951, before the Rana overthrow. Pushpa Lal Shrestha, the father of Nepali communism and the founder and general secretary of the country's first communist party, the Communist Party of Nepal, is credited with starting the country's communist movement. The two leading political parties then, the Nepal Communist Party and the Nepali Congress, established almost simultaneously before the 1950 revolution, were heavily influenced by the Communist Manifesto of Marxists. The Communist Party of Nepal has a number of factions and alliances to date.


The communist branches adhere to Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, or any combination of these ideologies. The CPN-UML's people's multiparty democracy principle and the Maoists' Prachanda Path (Prachanda's Way) are cases of original ideas or modifications of conventional communist ideology for modern times. Since taking power at the beginning of 2018, the Nepal Communist Party has often reaffirmed its commitment to democracy. However, it is also asserted that the party's ultimate objective is socialism, aligning views with the constitution and also establishing a communist society.


The Nepali Congress is recognized for bringing about the nation's economic liberalisation. The 1950-founded party has promoted a free market economy ever since democracy was restored in 1990. The Congress has consistently been criticised as "capitalist," which "promotes the agenda of the capitalists," by communist groups that have made socialism their objective.


The majority of Nepal's political parties now in existence concur that this country should grow into a socialist one, as they consented to the establishment of the country's constitution, whose introduction declares adherence to socialism. The party established and operating in accordance with the present constitution cannot contradict socialism's basic principles. Therefore, the unifying pledge of Nepali political parties is to lead the country towards a socialist path.


Socialism aims to give organised society, or the state, ownership of the means of production instead of private individuals. Marxists define capitalism as a system in which "capital calculations dominate production." Ownership of the means of production and the role of the state are the two main areas of difference between capitalism and socialism. While capitalism views private property ownership as a basic right of the individual, socialism denies it.


Although the parties theoretically pledged to start the evolution to socialism, their actual actions, the culture and education they have supported, their interactions with capitalists, the extraordinary privatisation of the education and health sectors, unrestrained expenses during the election, the amenity of the politicians, their control over financial donors in critical positions within the parties, and the widening gap between the rich and the poor demonstrate that socialism is still a long way off from being a reality in Nepal.


Nepal cannot be characterised as a capitalist or communist country, and it has also not achieved a complete state of socialism. Unlike the constitution, Nepal cannot ignore the free market and trade opportunities provided by capitalism. After 2006, Nepali politics became characterised by the confluence of business and politics, the emergence of politicians who eventually became businessmen, and the emergence of businesswomen and other businesspeople who later became politicians. So, Nepal is often called a "pseudo-capitalist" country that practises "crony capitalism."


According to a survey conducted by the Nepal Economic Forum, a large portion of the notable business houses that have been established in the last 15 years are the result of political ties. Also, despite prohibiting direct foreign investment and transnational corporations from operating in Nepal, their company has been protected through direct contact or by using the political organisations they sponsor.


One of the many cases supporting this idea is that of Ananda Raj Batas, an industrialist and the head of the Batas Organization, which owns more than a dozen businesses. Three businesses placed bids when the KP Sharma Oli administration issued a restaurant tender in December 2020: Batas Associates, Hotel Ananda, and BPS Leasing & Management. The Batas Organization reportedly won the contract, and it was stated that it will be building a restaurant on the grounds of the Narayanhiti Palace, a historically significant location that became public property in 2007. Surprisingly, all three bidders were members of the Batas Organization. BPS Leasing and Management had outbid its own sister business to secure the deal. The organisation had purchased the prime property on Kathmandu's priciest street for dirt cheap, which was the more intriguing news. But to everyone's amusement, Arju Rana Deuba, the current prime minister's wife, allegedly has connections to the Batas Foundation and serves as one of its "advisors." Now, anyone can easily make the connections.


Crony capitalism is the term for this political game; firms prosper not through competition but because of their tight ties to the ruling elite. The Nepali economy has been characterised by this system since the Nepali Congress, guided by neoliberals like Ram Sharan Mahat and Mahesh Acharya, initiated the wholesale privatisation of state-owned firms in the 1990s, gutting them in the process and enabling private interests to run rampant. The irony of this situation is compounded by the fact that the majority of Nepal's political parties have leftist, socialist, or communist ideologies. However, when it is in their favour, they all engage in capitalistic behaviour.


 In conclusion, Nepali politicians must pick a side. Contradiction is a normal situation, and innocent people are the ones who suffer as a result of this power play. Sticking to the constitution and pursuing socialism would be a decent approach. Unrestrained privatisation in sectors like health and education would be controlled, and the affiliations with influential capitalists who taint the purpose of developing national capital would be prevented. Nepali political parties must define socialism clearly and be able to reject Western neoliberal economic policies. Otherwise, their pledge of socialism will be a sham to deceive Nepalese citizens.


(Abinav Acharya is a TU topper in Master of Arts in Political Science and is actively involved in various socio-political researches with “Nepalese Foreign Policy and Diplomacy” being his keen field of interest. )


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