A WORLD TO WIN    #22   (1996)



In February 1996, coordinated raids and attacks occurred in three main regions as well as in many other places across the length of Nepal. These armed actions involving thousands of men and women opened a new and glorious chapter in the history of that country - the launching of the People's War, aimed at sweeping away imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. The initial phase, lasting only two weeks, included almost five thousand actions - from dramatic assaults on police stations in rural districts, confiscation of property from landlords and reactionaries, and punishment of a few hated tyrants, to widespread wall painting and leafleting. In all, some kind of activity in support of the People's War took place in 60 out of 75 districts of the country.

The enemy lashed out wildly at the masses, killing over two dozen people in the initial weeks alone, arresting hundreds and beating and terrorizing many more, especially in the remote rural areas where the revolutionary forces are concentrated.

At the core of this grand initiative is the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), a participating party of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. It is the Party which has made it possible for the long downtrodden poverty-stricken people to stand up straight, arms in hand against their oppressors, and for the rebellion of the masses to be transformed into a conscious revolution aimed at seizing state power.

Surprise and No Surprise

The initial actions, although modest from a strictly military point of view, stunned the ruling class like a blow to the head. For more than a millennium, the upper classes of Nepal had considered it their god-given right to rule over and exploit the working people. In fact, the King of Nepal promotes himself as the living reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu! The feudals and bureaucrat capitalists who rule over Nepal in league with imperialism and neighbouring India found it almost impossible to believe that the workers and especially the poor peasants, who make up the overwhelming majority of the population, were daring to use force against the guardians of the old regime.

But although the actual outbreak of hostilities came as a jolt to the rulers, the intensification of the conditions giving rise to revolution had been at work for a long time and had been accelerating at a rapid pace in the last few years especially. Two significant scholarly articles had appeared 1 which had as subject matter the widespread support in Nepal for the Communist Party of Peru and Chairman Gonzalo and the possibilities that a People's War might erupt from the smoldering class conflicts there.

Furthermore, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) had made no secret of its determination to prepare and launch the People's War. Numerous public documents, articles and speeches had been made along that line, and many, many thousands of people were aware of or participating in the Party's active preparations. So why then such a shock?

This is because, in all countries, the class outlook of the reactionary classes leads them to underestimate and have contempt for the oppressed. While they do fear the possibilities of explosion from the lower depths of society and do institute numerous repressive measures aimed at preserving the status quo through force and violence, the exploiters nevertheless believe that they alone are really capable of running society. This viewpoint is also deeply ingrained in Hinduism, the religion of Nepal's ruling class. The more that the revolt of the masses takes on a conscious revolutionary form, the more that the target of the struggle is the seizure of power, and the more thoroughly the revolution aims to uproot and replace the old reactionary social relations - the more the ruling classes consider the revolution an impossible, unthinkable nightmare, even while they spare no effort to oppose, sidetrack, slander and, when all else fails, smother it in blood.

Another particularity of the revolutionary movement in Nepal is that for more than a generation communist leaders had been advocating in words armed struggle for a new democratic revolution while finding one reason after another not to take up the serious preparation and launching of such a struggle. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) also had to discard the heavy weight of non-revolutionary goals, methods of work and forms of organization, which had characterized the whole of the communist movement in Nepal for decades. The daring initiation of the People's War is also a stinging refutation of the revisionist and opportunist lines.

Some Background

Nepal is located in a wide swath covering much of the Himalayas, which separate the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan plateau (part of China). Although the Himalayas are the highest mountains in the world (the world's highest peak, Sagarmatha, known in the West as "Mount Everest" after a British colonial official, is located in Nepal), they are not impregnable, and numerous passes have been used since antiquity as trading routes. The capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, is located on the principal trade route that historically has linked Tibet (and beyond it China proper) with India.

Although a relatively small country, especially compared to its giant neighbors to the north and south, Nepal is a mosaic of different peoples, languages and cultures. Most of the peoples and language groups in Nepal can be traced either to what some anthropologists call the "Tibeto-Burman" groups from the east and north of the Himalayas or to the "Indo-Aryan" peoples from the west and south. The cultures coexisting in Nepal also reflect varying influences. Nepal is the reputed birthplace of Buddha, and that religion, largely but not exclusively in its Lamaite, or Tibetan variety, is still practised by close to twenty percent of the population.

About half the population of Nepal is made up of different janjati (or minority nationality) groups. The Nepalese ruling class counts the entire janjati population as "Hindus" to justify their treatment of these masses as part of "inferior castes" and to buttress their claim that Nepal is a "Hindu nation". In fact, most of the janjatis reject the label "Hindu" and follow various animist (or naturalist) religious practices.

The geography of Nepal has favoured this mosaic pattern of peoples and cultures. The mountains as well as numerous rivers composing the three distinct water basins in Nepal tended throughout history to keep different populations isolated from each other. Peasants have always managed to eke out a living from terraced farming in the hills, or grazing in higher mountainous Himalayan regions, and the Mahabarat Lekh (the middle mountains between the lower foothills and the Himalayas proper) include some valleys well suited for rice cultivation and other agriculture at between one and two thousand metres above sea level. These areas, such as the fertile Kathmandu valley, became home to many Hindu feudals, who came north from what is now India to escape the Moghul invaders in the 11th-13th century. They subsequently were able to establish a number of feudal fiefdoms and suck the wealth of the successive generations of peasants. Later, as the British presence on the Indian subcontinent began to take shape, the most successful of these feudal principalities, the Gorkha kingdom ruled by Prithvi Narayan Shah, was able to establish a unified state in Nepal and extend its borders well beyond the present borders of Nepal (all the way to Punjab far to the west and to Bengal in the east) by using mountain warfare.

The defeat of the Gorkha kingdom by British India in 1815 and the subsequent Sugauli Treaty established the present boundaries of the country and codified the clear domination of British India. The various janjati peoples living in isolated hills and valleys of the country had their own local authorities and maintained their own cultural identities even while paying tribute to the king.

All along the southern border with India which runs for the entire breadth of the country lies a swath of land from 25 to 50 kilometers wide known as the Terai (or plane) which is not much above sea level. Today, the Terai is a wonderfully productive agricultural region with good soil, generally good water resources and an abundant labouring population (more than forty percent of the country's people live there). However, until the last century the Terai was a lightly populated, forested swamp so malaria-infested as to make it dangerous even for invading armies, let alone farmers who might want to reclaim the land for agriculture. Indeed, the king of Nepal discouraged the settling of the Terai, precisely to keep it as a barrier against British India to the south. But as Nepal came more and more under the sway of Britain in the mid-nineteenth century (without however, ever being reduced to a colony), the colonial authorities of British India and the Nepalese rulers agreed to open up the Terai to settlers. The rulers profiteered from the logging of the then forested Terai, while the masses poured their sweat and blood into making the region productive, only to be shackled with a strict feudal system. In addition to peoples from the hill regions of Nepal and descendants of the original forest-dwellers, a large percentage of these new settlers came from different regions of India. Together they make up the Terai's current population.

Today the Terai, like the rest of Nepal, is still a checkerboard of cultures. Many of the inhabitants are still considered "Indians" even after generations of labour to reclaim and work the land. Taking advantage of the cleavage between so-called "Indians" and "Nepalese" is one of the standard games of both the Indian reactionary regime and the Nepalese rulers to divide the people and to further reactionary interests.

More than half of the population of Nepal are officially considered (by the Nepal constitution) as janjati. This category is used to distinguish these masses from what is sometimes referred to as the "mainstream" Nepalese nationality. While many of these janjatis live in remote areas under more primitive conditions, the term is also applied to the Newars, for example. They were early Buddhist inhabitants and traders in the Kathmandu valley who still occupy key posts in commerce and public life in the capital. Although the Nepalese language has been imposed throughout the country for two centuries, only thirty percent of the population of the country speaks it as their mother tongue (it is a Sanskrit-based language linked linguistically to Hindi, Bengali and many other languages spoken in northern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh).

Life is difficult for the peasantry of Nepal, which constitutes the overwhelming majority of the population (close to ninety percent). Despite some token land reform that has taken place in the period since World War II, feudal ownership of the land is strong in the Terai and the principal mid-mountain valleys such as Kathmandu and Pokhara. Primitive farming on the hillsides is carried out by janjatis who can barely eke out a living but who are still subjected to different forms of exploitation, both from the central state and traditional janjati authorities.

All of the "yardsticks" regularly used to measure impoverishment consistently show Nepal among the world's poorest countries. In a country where annual income is only a few hundred dollars a year, chicken and eggs can cost as much as in Europe. This means that a large percentage of the population is under-nourished by any standard. Industrial products are rare to non-existent for most of the population. Despite the fact that the Nepalese masses have, through hard labour, constructed housing stock and rudimentary sanitation that compares favourably to the widespread squalor prevalent in many Third World countries, health conditions are abominable for most people. According to the World Bank's Social Indicators of Development estimate for 1988-1993 (the latest avaliable) only 1290 doctors were registered in the entire country - most of whom were in the capital, leaving a tiny number of doctors to serve about 18 million people in the outlying areas! All of this translates into an average life expectancy of 54 years for men and an even lower life expectancy for women (52.2 years). These averages mask the large disparities between the city dwellers and the impoverised countryside.

This lower life expectancy for women is particularly striking, given the trend observed in all countries for women to outlive men. It is testimony to the extreme conditions of oppression and hard labour that Nepalese women face and the high incidence of death during childbirth - one in one hundred. Marriage by kidnapping (after which payment to the bride's family is often negotiated - the opposite of the traditional Hindu dowry arrangement) is still found among some sections of the population. As even remote areas of Nepal are drawn tighter into the market economy, a flourishing trade has resulted in large numbers of women being forced into the horrors of the brothels of India. Yet in some janjati areas, women enjoy more equality, a result of a less strict division of labor and the influences, in some cases, of primitive communal social structures. For all these reasons, it is not surprising that large numbers of women are participating in the revolutionary struggle.

In the last few decades, a large-scale tourism industry has developed in Nepal. For the imperialists, the "specific advantages" of Nepal are its beautiful scenery and excellent climate and, especially of course, its very low wages. Much of the "development" that has taken place in Nepal has been aimed at turning the country into a vacation paradise for tourists from Europe and Israel and rich Indians.

For generations, the difficulties of surviving have forced millions of Nepalese to migrate in search of work. Most have gone to India, where they are employed in menial work and super-exploited. The back-and-forth movement of millions of Nepalese to India is vital economically for both India and Nepal and is an important feature of political and social life. Despite the great hardships, it has helped expose the Nepalese labouring masses to foreign culture and world affairs and especially to the liberating ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Throughout India, large numbers of Nepalese workers have taken part in revolutionary struggles, and a great many are organized under the leadership of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) through the different mass organizations the Party leads in India. There are also millions of people living in the Indian hill areas bordering Nepal who speak variants of the Nepalese language and identify closely with the masses in Nepal. These are some reasons why the revolutions in Nepal and India will be intertwined.

Traditionally, many Nepalese men have enrolled in foreign armed services, particularly the British Army (and since independence, the Indian Army as well). These forces, often misnamed "Gorkha regiments" (after only one of the many peoples in Nepal), played an important role in the British and now Indian war machines. During World War II, as many as 500,000 Nepalese served in the British Army, only to be discharged without a penny at the war's end. Their massive return to Nepal was one of the important factors of the large-scale democratic upsurge that took place in the country in 1950-51. One positive aspect of this thoroughly disgusting practice of press-ganging oppressed peoples to serve their masters in war has been that some knowledge of military affairs and handling of modern weapons is widespread, even in the most remote corners of the country.

Some History

From relatively nearby Calcutta on the Bay of Bengal, which was the capital of British India until the beginning of the twentieth century, the colonial authorities longed after Nepal. In 1814-15, the British East India Company waged a war against the Gorkha kingdom and seized a large part of the territory that had earlier been incorporated into the kingdom by Prithvi Narayan Shah. But the British found it both difficult and unwise to try to occupy Nepal militarily, and instead exercised control over the country by less direct means.

In 1846, a political institution developed which was to govern Nepal for a century and safeguard British interests in the process. One of the leading feudal families of Kathmandu with links to the British, the Rana, provided hereditary "prime ministers". The successive kings, on the other hand, were reduced to mere figureheads, and each was required to marry a member of the Rana family to further ensure the latter's dominance. During the hundred-year rule of the Rana family, Nepal's integration into the world imperialist system was brought about via the connection to Britain and British India. At the same time, extremely backward feudal conditions marked the socio-economic system, and the masses were locked out of any modern political life.

It was only after World War II and the revolutionary upsurge that accompanied the defeat of the fascist imperialist powers and the great weakening of British imperialism that the "Ranarchy" (as the Rana family domination was sometimes called) finally collapsed. The king, with the blessing of the British, waged a palace coup against the hated Rana family in hopes of heading off the popular ferment.

British India was partitioned into the formally independent countries of India and Pakistan in 1947, and Nepal's traditional subservience to British India was transferred to the new Nehru regime in New Delhi.

Two political parties were formed at that time, the Nepalese Congress Party and the Nepal Communist Party (NCP, formed in April 1949). The Congress Party was essentially a party of the pro-Indian big feudals and big bourgeoisie. While the NCP attracted the hopes and aspirations of the working class, sections of the peasantry and a big section of the middle class as well, even at its founding it did not have a revolutionary programme or ideology. In 1951, a compromise was engineered by New Delhi (known as the "tripartite agreement", between the king, the Rana family and New Delhi) to put an end to the revolutionary upsurge demanding democracy in the country. Under this compromise the hereditary prime ministership was to be eliminated, the role of India as the overseer of Nepal was confirmed and a parliament was established. The king obtained sweeping powers, including the power to dissolve parliament and rule by decree.

In the wake of the collapse of the old "dual monarchy" system, mass movements developed among different sections of the people. The NCP initially denounced the tripartite agreement and led some struggle against it. Some armed struggle developed among the peasantry. One important struggle in the early 1950s was led by Vim Dutta Pantha, who was pro-communist although not a Party member. The Nepalese police and army were unable to defeat him. It was left up to the Indian army to defeat Pantha's forces and behead him.

Peasant struggles in the Terai were led by the NCP and some of them went over to arms. Unfortunately, these struggles were betrayed by the NCP leadership, and especially by the General Secretary of the NCP, Man Mohan Adhikari, who went on to become the Prime Minister in 1994 at the head of the United Nepal Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), on which more later. Adhikari signed a secret agreement with the Prime Minister in which the NCP pledged to recognize the monarchy in hopes of lifting a ban on the Party.

In 1960, parliamentary elections were held. The entire machinery of the Communist Party was plunged into the electoral arena. The NCP won only four seats in a parliament dominated by the Nepalese Congress Party. Under the Congress Party government, Nepal was brought even more under the domination of India. Numerous treaties were signed giving over valuable natural resources, especially control over Nepal's vast water reserves, to the Indian ruling classes. The Nepalese Prime Minister even went so far as to oppose Nepal's application for membership in the United Nations on the grounds that it was unnecessary because its "elder brother" India was already a member!

After only eighteen months of the Congress Government, with discontent rapidly growing among the masses, the king dissolved parliament and arrested all political leaders and activists. In place of parliament, the panchayat system was established. Under this system the government was to be based on village and local elections following traditional patriarchal authority patterns. At the top, representatives of lower level councils would serve as advisors to the king. All political parties were outlawed, and there was constant repression against the various communist parties in particular.

The Maoist Movement

Of crucial importance in the history of Nepal's communist movement has been the great battle against modern revisionism led by Mao Tsetung and the Communist Party of China against the Khrushchev clique leading the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Not only did Mao's line exert deep influence over the masses in neighbouring Nepal, but the worldwide revolutionary upsurge which accompanied the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was knocking on Nepal's borders with India as well.

In 1967, the famous Naxalbari upsurge began in a village by that name in the upper part of the Indian state of West Bengal, not too far from Darjeeling. The village of Naxalbari is only a few kilometres from the border of eastern Nepal. It is not surprising, then, that the influence of this movement would quickly spread into the adjoining areas of Nepal itself. In 1971, in the Jhapa district of eastern Nepal, a local section of the NCP split off and began a Naxalbari-type armed struggle. Although the movement had great historical significance, it could not develop into a people's war. The leadership of the NCP denounced the movement as "ultra-left", despite its importance. Under the blows of the enemy, the movement was defeated and its political leaders degenerated, later rejoining the main revisionist party.

In 1974, the Fourth Congress of the Nepal Communist Party was held, which adopted Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought as its ideology. It concluded that Nepal must pass through a new democratic revolution and that this could only be accomplished through armed struggle. At the same time, the Congress was unclear on what the nature of the armed struggle would be.

The NCP resolutely boycotted the 1980 referendum which the king had proposed in response to a new upswing in the mass movement. In 1981, the Party condemned the revisionist coup in China.

Normal Lama had became the General Secretary of the Party in 1978 and tried hard to have the Party adopt a line of "general insurrection" in opposition to the Maoist line of protracted people's war. While awaiting this "general insurrection", Lama advocated participation in panchayat elections. The Party expelled Lama in 1983 and was renamed the Nepal Communist Party (Mashal). The NCP (Mashal) joined the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement from its beginning in 1984.

The 5th Congress of the NCP (Mashal) in 1985 solemnly adopted the path of protracted people's war as the strategy for revolution in Nepal and even called for preparations to be made in this direction.2 This position reflected the burning desire of the great majority of the Party to make revolution. But numerous problems of political and ideological line prevented the Party from seriously taking up the tasks of preparing and launching people's war. Two of the principal errors were:

1) The leadership of NCP (Mashal) began to more and more vociferously oppose Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, holding that because the world was still in the stage of imperialism which Lenin described, it was impossible for the revolutionary ideology of Marxism-Leninism to reach a third and higher stage of Maoism. Further, NCP (Mashal) leaders claimed that Mao had made a number of important errors and, in particular, disagreed with the critique that Mao had developed concerning some of the errors and weaknesses of Joseph Stalin and the experience of building socialism in the Soviet Union under his leadership. The NCP (Mashal) leadership was unable to fully assimilate the experience of the Cultural Revolution and draw appropriate conclusions.

2) The NCP (Mashal) developed the thesis that it was impossible for people's war to be successfully conducted in Nepal unless it were to break out in India first. The argument of "two invincible mountains" held that people's war in Nepal, a landlocked country with the Himalayas on one side and India on the other three sides, would inevitably have to face the might of the Indian state and could never hope to resist such a powerful force. This view saw only the strength of the Indian ruling classes and not their weaknesses, especially that they are hated and opposed by the revolutionary masses of India. Revolutionary war in Nepal will be opposed by the Indian reactionaries but supported by the Indian people. The geographically unfavourable features (being landlocked) were one-sidedly used to negate the extremely favourable aspects - such as mountainous terrain favourable for waging people's war.

A split took place in the NCP (Mashal) in 1986, with one group known as the "Central Organizing Committee" (COC) and the other as the "Central Committee" (CC). Both of these groupings remained active participants of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. The campaigns of RIM were actively taken up in Nepal, particularly the support for and popularization of the People's War in Peru, which struck a deep chord among the workers, peasants and revolutionary intellectuals of Nepal.

Over a period of time, the line questions in the Nepalese communist movement began to sharpen. In both the COC and especially in the CC group, serious grappling began to take place over the problem of how to wage protracted people's war in the conditions of Nepal. Furthermore, the CC group began to develop a more thorough critique of the errors of the COC leadership [still known as "NCP (Mashal)"] and, most importantly, adopted and took up the struggle for Marxism-Leninism-Maoism in opposition to the COC view that Mao had not developed Marxism-Leninism to a new and higher stage.

Beginning in 1990, another mass upsurge rocked Nepal. Millions of people rose up to demand an end to the absolute monarchy. In the face of the mounting furor of the people, the king quickly reached an agreement with the Nepalese Congress and the main revisionist groupings (who were collaborating with the Congress Party) to grant parliamentary elections for the first time in decades. In return, these reactionary and reformist parties were to accept the continued existence of the monarchy, which traded in its partyless panchayat system for "multi-party democracy". Political parties were legalized and a period of intense political activity began throughout the country, involving all sections of the population.

Within the communist movement, the process of realignment and polarization into two main camps also intensified under the conditions of revolutionary upsurge. In December 1991, the Nepal Communist Party (Unity Centre) was formed, made up of the NCP CC group, a section of the NCP COC, the Lama group and a group called the Proletarian Labour Organization. The NCP (Unity Centre) applied for admittance into the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement and was accepted, while the NCP (Mashal) remained a participating Party as well. Under Unity Centre leadership, a nationwide mass organization, the United People's Front, quickly developed a large following in both urban and rural areas.

On the other hand, the principal revisionist organizations in Nepal joined together to form the United Nepal Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), usually referred to simply as UML. The UML included both the "historic leaders" of the Nepal communist movement, such as Man Mohan Adhikari, who had betrayed the struggle in the 1950s, and others who had taken part in the Naxalbari- type struggles in the early 1970s and then swung over to right-revisionist positions.

In 1991, the first parliamentary elections in decades were held. The NCP (Mashal) called for a boycott, while the NCP (Unity Centre) chose to participate in the elections through the vehicle of the United People's Front (UPF). The Nepalese Congress won 110 of the 205 seats. The UML emerged as the second largest party with a total of 69 seats. The UPF won nine seats in the Assembly and several others in the upper house as well. Both the Unity Centre and Mashal participated in the local elections for a whole myriad of positions on local councils, school boards, etc, with the Unity Centre winning over 2000 posts and Mashal over 1000.

The masses, having been called forth into political struggle by the political upheaval in the country, were demanding a change in their lives. Needless to say, the new government did nothing to alleviate the dreadful conditions of poverty or to challenge the reactionary feudal ownership system. Under the Congress Party government, the ties to the Indian reactionary regime and imperialism became tighter still.

With the capture of Chairman Gonzalo in September 1992, the participating parties of RIM mobilized a massive campaign to Defend the Life of Chairman Gonzalo in accordance with the needs of the hour and the call issued by the Committee of RIM. This campaign reached deep among the workers and peasants as well as the revolutionary intellectuals active in the capital and other cities. The support for Comrade Gonzalo reflected not only support for the PCP and proletarian internationalism, but also the desire of the Nepalese masses to rise up in revolutionary warfare. In many of the houses of the poor peasants, the only decoration on the bare wall was a poster of Chairman Gonzalo. The Mao Centenary was also celebrated in a big way by the Unity Centre who used it as an occasion to study and propagate Maoism, especially Mao's teachings on protracted people's war.

In 1994, new parliamentary elections were held. The Unity Centre and the United People's Front it was leading decided to boycott the parliamentary elections. In areas in which the Unity Centre was strong, especially the Rolpa area in Western Nepal, the election boycott was particularly successful. In a reversal of position since the last election, the Mashal party decided to participate in the parliamentary election, winning two seats.

The biggest winner of the election was the UML, which formed a government. The election of so-called "communists" to power was widely commented in the international press as one of the only examples of "communists coming to power peacefully". In fact, the UML was communist in name only, and its taking over the government only meant agreeing to handle the administration of the old state apparatus (minus the most important component, the army, which remained firmly under the control of the palace) on behalf of the exploiting powers. No serious efforts were made to challenge the existing property relations or the entrenched authority of the exploiting classes. While the UML was fond of talking about Marx, Lenin, Stalin and even sometimes Mao, it was really just fulfilling the same role as that of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in nearby West Bengal. The CPI(M) has run the state government for decades and in particular bears responsibility for the murder of hundreds of revolutionary communists including comrade Charu Mazumdar, initiator of the Naxalbari uprising and founder of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). This shows that it is quite possible to protect the interests of the ruling classes while muttering Marxist phrases or putting up pictures of deceased proletarian revolutionary leaders.

The UML government lasted until November 1995, when a reversal of alliances in parliament led to its fall and the formation of a new Nepalese Congress government.

Maoism is the Key!

Meanwhile, the clarification of political lines in the ranks of the genuine communists continued. In May 1994, the Unity Centre decided to expel the Lama grouping from the Party and to rename itself the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). This was not just a name change, but represented the culmination of a long struggle comrades had been waging to unite the Party around a correct Marxist-Leninist-Maoist line. This victory in the line struggle made it possible for the third plenum of the Central Committee in March 1995 to take the historic decision to start the People's War. The previous position of the Unity Centre in 1991 to launch the People's War had remained an abstract position, as the "Lamaites" in the Party opposed preparing for the people's war and instead argued for continued participation in parliament.

Once the momentous decision was taken, the Party leadership set out to bring to fruition the ideological, political and organizational transformations necessary to be able to launch the People's War. Despite the many struggles over the decades that had been waged against first one then another type of opportunism and revisionism, the struggle to consolidate a correct Marxist-Leninist-Maoist understanding needed to be carried through to the end.

As the CPN(M) leadership has put it: "There are specific weaknesses in the understanding of communists in Nepal. Mostly we have been influenced by gradualism. This means mass struggle, and that some time in the distant future the mass struggle will itself transition to armed struggle. This is wrong and goes against Marxist dialectics (it is gradualism, vulgar evolutionism). The law of dialectics is the unity of opposites. There was a debate in the Congress. The rightists argued that unity was permanent and struggle temporary. They are out of the Party but the understanding of this question is still a problem for the Party - development takes place through leaps and bounds... After the struggle with the rightists we have better grasped the Maoist idea of unity-struggle-transformation. The law of development is not through addition or subtraction but through qualitative leap.

"Basically we see that philosophy and ideology and organization is crucial to initiating people's war to break out of the vicious circle of reformism - the school of revolution in words and reformism in deeds that marked the old Mashal party. There needed to be radical rupture in thinking, deeds, style of organization. Otherwise we cannot initiate people's war. We have studied the experience of other countries and especially the works of Mao. The question of philosophy and ideology must be clear. In fact, it is part of the problem of initiating. Things don't develop gradually, they need a leap. Mass struggle will not go over to armed struggle by itself. In other organizational spheres it is not enough just to make progress, there has to be rupture in our work style.

"Along with this, what we are emphasizing is that the revolutionary process does not develop in a straight line, it goes in zig-zags and there are successes and defeats. We... cannot say that with only one leap we will be able to get rid of all the revisionist garbage from the past. So there is a dialectical process of development - twists and turns, advances and retreats, etc. Ultimate success, but temporary failures."

Throughout this period and since, the CPN(M) has been an active participant in RIM, not only in its public campaigns but also in its internal life as well. The discussions involved in the adoption of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism by RIM in December 1993 and the unfolding of the struggle against the Right Opportunist Line which emerged in the Communist Party of Peru have also interpenetrated with the Party's strides forward. The Party pointed out in relation to the two-line struggle in Peru that, "the revolutionaries cannot remain a silent spectator when the struggle centres around broader ideological and political questions with universal implications like this one," and it spoke of "the direct bearing and significance" of such questions for the revolution in Nepal.3

In the last several years, the CPN(M) leaders have been engaged in a major effort to study the Maoist line on protracted people's war and apply it to the concrete realities of Nepal. This includes studying the military history of Nepal, the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy's forces, the particularities of Nepal's class formation, history and geography and so forth. But the key to solving the military line, in the words of the CPN(M) leadership, "was mainly a question of grasping Maoism and the struggle for Maoism".

Once the Party had firmly grasped the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist position on protracted peoples war, it went about the systematic political, ideological and organizaional preparations necessary among its members and supporters. Members were struggled with to make the transformations required for the Party to be capable of really launching and sustaining a people's war. Others were encouraged to help the Party as sympathizers.

Particular military preparations took place as well. For example, the widely reported seizure of 40,000 detonating devices and one hundred kilograms of fuse took place in the days before the initiation. Although a highly publicized "recovery" operation was launched with the aid of dogs and helicopters, none of the explosives material was recovered and it was instead quickly distributed throughout the country.

In areas of strong Party influence in the backward and poverty-stricken Western Region of Nepal, Rukum and Rolpa in particular, the class struggle had been dramatically sharpening in the final months of 1995 and the beginning of 1996. The regime had launched a vicious campaign called "Operation Romeo" aimed at rooting out the strength of the Party in those areas and especially at wiping out military squads being formed under Party leadership. As many as 1000 Party members and sympathetic peasants and workers had been arrested and tortured by the reactionary forces before the People's War began.

The vicious repression campaign fueled the anger of the masses. Human rights organizations and even some ruling class elements such as sections of the revisionist UML party demanded an end to government terror. Mass meetings were held throughout the country against the repression and in support of the Party's basic program. In the capital alone, 50 000 people attended a rally and over 200 000 participated throughout the country. A delegation of the United People's Front led by Babarum Bhattarai and Pampa Bhusal delivered a memorandum to the Prime Minister demanding an immediate end to the repression campaign and indicating the revolutionary demands of the people.

Under these conditions of an extremely rapid intensification of the class struggle, the Party leadership took the bold decision to initiate the People's War on February 13th. Once the decision was taken and "the Rubicon was crossed", a whole new life began for the Party and its members. One thousand party activists went underground during the initiation.

The Initiation of the People's War

A total of 5000 actions, large and small, were carried out in the Western, Central, Eastern and Kathmandu Valley regions of Nepal, in what amounts to sixty-five percent of the country.4 On the first day, seven major actions were launched. In both Rukum and in the Sindhili district in Eastern Nepal, police camps were seized after the defenders surrendered. In another camp in Rolpa a gunfight lasted several hours before the guerrillas successfully withdrew. In another place in Western Nepal, a big feudal, almost a local king, was attacked, his property seized, and his land titles destroyed.

In the Central Region, an agricultural bank, which was part of a bureaucrat capitalist project to suck the blood of the peasantry in the name of rural development, came under attack. In the Gorkha district, squads successfully sabotaged a comprador-owned distillery, despite the unexpected presence of 15 policemen busy downing liquor. In the same district, the office of a notorious U.S. imperialist "aid" organization, "Save the Children", was ransacked. A symbolic attack was made against the Coca Cola plant near Kathmandu.

One important feature of the initiation phase was attacks on agricultural credit banks and the confiscation and burning of mortgages and loan documents. In a number of cases, hundreds of peasants led by regular guerrilla squads captured and burned loan documents belonging to very large and widely hated feudals. It is estimated that the total value of these loan documents was more than $200 000 (US) - a very considerable sum for the Nepalese peasantry.

Together with the assaults, a nationwide propaganda campaign was also unleashed. In hundreds of villages, processions took place, which all together involved thousands of men and women in almost equal numbers. Participants in these processions, some of which were carried out at night by torch light, were armed with local weapons and led by guerrilla squads. In 40 to 50 district towns as well as in the capital, squads under the leadership of the Party carried out the now very dangerous tasks of postering and wall writing in support of the initiation of the war. Hundreds of thousands of flyers were distributed along with 50 000 posters.

The goals of the initial campaign were:

i) To establish the politics of armed struggle.

ii) To establish in practice that the main form of struggle is armed actions and the main form of organization, at the present stage of the struggle, is the different types of organized squads.

iii) To prepare the basis for developing guerrilla zones.

As news of the initiation swept across the country, a wave of enthusiasm spread among the masses of the poor and other revolutionary sections of the people. The dream of standing up, guns in hand, against the hated oppressors was finally becoming a reality!

The reactionary government responded by unleashing mass terror campaigns in areas of Party influence. Even in the capital they went on a mad rage, stomping around seeking Party leaders and members, furious when they discovered that most were gone and had not left a forwarding address! Unable to get their hands on many Party cadre, police arrested revolutionary masses right and left. Even a music cassette with revolutionary songs was banned, causing the black market price to triple, according to press accounts.

On the side of the government and the palace, panic set in. All of the major parliamentary political parties, and in particular the revisionist UML, were convoked by the Prime Minister to express their condemnation of the uprising. NCP (Mashal) also condemned the uprising as "premature" and "left extremist". The revolutionary process itself was dividing the political forces between those who stood for the overthrow of the old regime and those who objectively were defending it.

At the same time, the camp of the ruling class was set into disarray by the rising of the masses. After the initial phase of several weeks of coordinated attacks was over, the Party leadership summed up the initiation as a complete success and began preparing for the next waves of struggle. At first, the enemy crowed over the temporary decline in armed actions by the people's forces. Actually, the Party and the forces led by it were preparing to go over to a new and higher stage of struggle, the initiation of guerrilla warfare.

In March 1996, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee led by the Secretary General of the Party, Comrade Prachanda, met to sum up the process of initiation and to lay further plans. The document of that meeting put it as follows: "At the moment the attention of the politically conscious masses, intellectual community and all others is centred on what would be the next plan of the Party and whether or not we would be able to preserve and develop what has been newly given birth to. In this context we should pay serious attention to the following points:

"1. ...The enemy wants to draw us into a war of quick decision but on our part we want to avoid it and prolong the war... the enemy wants to incite us and draw us into confrontation according to his own convenience, but we want to harass the enemy, tire him out and attack him at his weak points at the time and place of our convenience according to our plan.

"2. ...Our policies and programmes should guarantee our constant interactions with the masses, because the Party has no separate interests other than the interests of the masses....

"3. ...We must wage relentless ideological and political struggle against the tendency of dragging the Party in the direction of either adventurism or capitulationism. In the present situation of the enemy on the offensive, the capitulationist tendency is more dangerous for the Party.

"4. ...The process of protracted people's war is the process of construction of the revolutionary Party, revolutionary struggle, revolutionary power and the revolutionary army, from the simple to the complex... now it is necessary to concentrate on the development of guerrilla warfare in a planned way and based on the principle of protracted people's war and on our own specificities."

Armed with the above line, the Party undertook active preparations for taking the struggle to a higher stage. In the areas of Party influence, the two thousand militarized police sent by the government continued their reign of terror. Cases of rape of women, burning of houses and beatings of the young and elderly were widespread. In the "struggling areas", all of the young men are considered guerrillas and a great many have had to flee their villages to neighbouring hills and forests. Women have taken the main responsibility for organizing agricultural production and mass resistance in the villages. In addition, scores of women have joined the regular guerrilla squads.

By the end of July, over 45 people had been killed by the reactionaries throughout the country and many hundreds jailed. The enemy has offered rewards of thousands of dollars for information on the whereabouts of leaders of the People's War. However, a new factor appeared as well: by July three well-planned ambushes against police patrols in the rural districts in Western Nepal had taken place. It is clear that the squads led by the CPN(M), the rudiments of a peoples' army, have been able to withstand the repression campaign and even counter-attack.

In most cases the revolutionary squads are extremely underarmed. They have only a few modern weapons and instead use rudimentary country hunting weapons, homemade guns and arms such as knives, and even stones. But by utilizing tactics of pitting "ten against one", taking full advantage of the element of surprise, with high morale and superior intelligence, which comes from close integration with the masses, even ill-armed squads can defeat enemy patrols and capture enemy arms, as happened in several ambushes in summer 1996. The CPN(M) is following Mao's teachings of relying on one's own efforts and procuring armaments principally by taking them from the enemy.

Revisionist Attacks On CPN(M)

Meanwhile, the revisionists of the UML are, with the help of some others, busy throwing mud on the great achievements of the genuine communists of Nepal and rushing to the support of the old regime, in a way that reminds one of the infamous Patria Roja which has opposed the People's War in Peru from the beginning even while claiming to be "Maoist".

The General Secretary of the UML declared at an international gathering in Brussels that, "Violence and armed revolt are never a desire of working people and the communist party.... We have seen that militant mass movements can also bring about change in the system without much bloodshed.... The present world has moved far away from the time of the Indonesian and Chilean incidents.

"Short-sightedness, dogmatism, subjectivism, sectarianism, extremism, petit-bourgeois romanticism, impatience and personal egos dominate extremist minds and they act as fanatics. Such actions actually harm the revolution, weaken and isolate the revolutionaries and provide the upper hand to reactionary regimes."

One result of the shameless attack on the revolution by the UML and others has been large-scale desertions from the revisionist and opportunist organizations, as more and more rank-and-file members and supporters rally to the cause of the People's War.

The UML revisionists have not restricted their attacks to mere words. They have lent support to government efforts to create "self-defence groups" like the infamous "rondas" in Peru to oppose the uprising.5

Thus we see that today the "theoretical disputes" of the communist movement in Nepal (which are themselves part of the broader international struggle between Marxism and revisionism which some try to dismiss as mere "history") are again taking on flesh and blood - to oppose or support revolution. Just as the successful initiation of the People's War was only possible as a result of a long and bitter struggle against opportunism, it is clear that revisionism, in Nepal and internationally, will continue to do everything in its power to stop the revolution in Nepal.

The class enemy has already leapt quickly at the people, hoping that by using dual tactics of terror and deception they will sidetrack the revolution. Even as the Nepalese ruling class dispatches its militarized police to spread murder and terror throughout the rural districts, they have also tried to confuse the masses with talk of a "political solution" to the insurgency. The Prime Minister issued public feelers for negotiations.

The Party has held "that it would be a crime against the proletariat to start an armed struggle without the firm conviction of carrying it out to the end. We shall never allow this struggle to become a mere instrument for introducing partial reforms... or terminate in a simple compromise by exercising pressure on the reactionary classes."6 The CPN(M)'s vigorous participation in the repudiation of the Right Opportunist Line in Peru has helped further strengthen the Party's ability to respond to these counter-revolutionary dual tactics and the Party's grasp of the laws of war.7

The Future

One important actor in the months and years ahead will be the reactionary state of India. It is largely, though not exclusively, through India that Nepal is linked to the world imperialist system. India has long regarded Nepal as its protectorate and is almost certain to intervene militarily if it feels this is necessary. There are also precedents for Indian aggression against small neighbours, including the invasion of the Himalayan states of Bhutan and Sikkim which are not far from Nepal. Sikkim was unceremoniously incorporated into the state of India by the force of the Indian army.

At the same time, the Indian rulers must seriously weigh every move they make, given the widespread hatred for them in Nepal among all classes and strata. This is particularly the case now that the Nepalese Congress Party, who are seen as stooges of India, are at the helm of government.

Furthermore, the Indian ruling class have their hands full trying to deal with the explosive contradictions in India itself, and they know that overt aggression in Nepal will also be fiercely opposed by broad sections of revolutionary and progressive people in India and throughout South Asia. For the moment, India has been quiet and has even offered some "carrots" to Nepal, in the form of relaxed border controls and so forth. But no one is so naive as to think that India will watch passively as revolution unfolds in its Himalayan protectorate.

Nepal's Western imperialist backers quickly announced the approval of various development schemes, for example, the building of new roads, whose military implications are obvious. Israel, which plays a special role in aiding and training the Nepalese repressive apparatus and intelligence services, is sure to step up its help to the counter-revolution.

The initiation of the People's War in Nepal comes at an important juncture in the world, when the imperialists and reactionaries have declared their "final victory" over communism. The possibilities of initiating and waging revolutionary warfare are being scoffed at in many quarters, and old verdicts in the long struggle of Marxism versus revisionism are being called into question, including by the Right Opportunist Line in Peru. The outbreak of a genuine people's war led by a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist party participating in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement will strengthen the proletarian line internationally and deal a blow to the puffed-up revisionists, who had been pointing to Nepal as a possibility of "peaceful transition" and vaunting the wonders of parliament.

It is of course impossible to predict the future course of the People's War in Nepal. There can be no doubt that the struggle will be fierce and complex, and there will be unexpected twists and turns. But already the hope for revolution is being transformed into a material force, the masses are aroused as never before and whole sections of the people, especially but not only the downtrodden janjati and other poor peasants, are seeking out the Party and its mass organizations. When the pent-up hatred of the downtrodden against their oppression is unleashed by a concrete programme for overcoming this oppression, when the scientific ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism illuminates the path for the armed struggle of the people, a titanic force is liberated which can sweep aside all that is decrepit and reactionary.

The sight of hundreds of thousands of peasants and workers in Nepal standing up and taking on their enemies cannot help but inspire the oppressed masses throughout the world. It highlights the decisive role and vitality of the revolutionary ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and gives further impulse to the forming and strengthening of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations united in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. The initiation of the People's War in Nepal is a daring and glorious step forward for the world revolution.


1 "Democratization and the Growth of Communism in Nepal: A Peruvian Scenario in the Making?" (R. Andrew Nickson, in Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, Nov 1992) and "The Paradoxical Support of Nepal's Left for Comrade Gonzalo" (Stephen L. Mikesell, in Himal, March/April 1993).

2 See Nepalese Left Tribune, October 1985.

3 The Worker, organ of the CPN(M) in English. June 1996, p 23.

4 Detailed information of the initial phase of the People's War is contained in The Worker.

5 Kathmandu Post, 26 March 1996.

6 From the "Plan for the Historical Initiation of the People's War" adopted by the Central Committee in September 1995.

7 In an article entitled "Two-Line Struggle within the PCP" in the June 1996 issue of The Worker, the Party summarizes key lessons of the two-line struggle in Peru concerning the correct policy toward negotiations, the laws of war, and so forth. The article supports the "detailed critiques by the Committee of RIM and the Union of Communists of Iran (Sarbedaran)" contained in AWTW 1995/21.