A WORLD TO WIN    #23   (1998)



The People's War Is Sinking Roots

    From the time the first cries of the People̓s War were heard on 13 February 1996, the face of Nepal has been changing. The downtrodden of the Himalayas are rising up, arms in hand, marching along the tortuous path of revolution to overthrow imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism, determined to turn Nepal into a red base for the world revolution.

     With the initiation of the war, the sharp class struggle that has been rocking Nepal for some time has taken a qualitative leap in both intensity and scope.

     In semi-feudal semi-colonial countries the poor peasants are the main force of the new democratic revolution. And in Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, the rural poor live in particularly appalling conditions. Unleashed by the People̓s War, this most oppressed section has stepped to the forefront of the struggle. Along with the proletariat and, led by a genuine MLM party, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [CPN(M)], the masses of Nepal are learning the laws of war through waging war. The pace and quality of events during the last two years have brought valuable lessons not only to the oppressed of Nepal and their vanguard, but for the oppressed all over the world.

Developing the People̓s War

    The two weeks of concentrated and simultaneous activity that marked the initiation of the People̓s War and the ensuing actions in the next couple of months effectively established the politics of armed struggle and prepared the basis for guerrilla war. After the successful accomplishment of this first phase, in which new forms of organization also started to take shape, the Party launched the second phase of the war. The CPN(M) adheres to the Maoist understanding that in a people̓s war the main form of the organization of the masses is the revolutionary army and the main form of struggle is armed struggle. The basic objective of the Second Plan was “to develop guerrilla warfare in a planned manner so as to prepare grounds to convert specific areas into Guerrilla Zones in the near future. For this, the emphasis would be on creating radicalized (or militarized) mass bases in specific areas and upgrading and expanding the fighting capability of the armed detachments. Accordingly, broad categorization and identification of Principal Zones, Secondary Zones and Propaganda Zones was made....” [“One Year of People̓s War in Nepal”, The Worker, Organ of the CPN(Maoist), No. 3, February 1997] The Second Plan that started to unfold in October ̓96 incorporated different forms of action and activities.

                 An important part of the Second Plan has been guerrilla raids against enemy armed forces. The proletariat and the people can only seize power by destroying the enemy̓s rule which is enforced through its army. In countries dominated by imperialism, the people̓s army can destroy the enemy̓s rule at first in parts of the countryside, win bae areas and establish political power as the key to unleashing the masses and developing strength in preparation for seizing nationwide power in keeping with the strategy of surrounding the cities from the countryside. This is an uneven and protracted war, where the forces of the enemy have all the means of the state at their disposal and are armed to the teeth. But the army of revolution is armed with great courage and sacrifice stemming from a materialist understanding of the course of history, and it relies on the boundless initiative of the masses to overcome any obstacle. Most of the CPN(M)-led military actions so far have been carried out with home-made guns and bombs, khukhuris (traditional Nepali curved knives), work tools and sometimes even bare hands. But the revolutionaries also apply a policy of acquiring more modern weaponry. In late ̓96 and early ̓97, there were several attacks against police outposts, including in Lung in Pyuthan, Tribeni in Dolpa (both in the Western hills) and in Bethan.

                 Among these the Party has singled out the Bethan raid as the most successful and the best example so far in this newly budding war of a daring military exploit and supreme sacrifice. Bethan is a backward region in Ramechhap, in the Eastern hills of Nepal. In the dark of the night of 3 January 1997, a squad consisting of 29 guerrillas led by Comrade Tirtha Gautam held their lives in their hands and dared to attack a police outpost equipped with modern weaponry. Our comrades were armed only with home-made bombs and guns, but were filled with revolutionary enthusiasm and convinced that in a revolutionary war it is people not weapons that are decisive. After a pitched battle that lasted for several hours, they succeeded in overpowering the enemy. Two policemen were killed and two others seriously injured, and the guerrillas seized four rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Comrade Gautam and two other fighters (including a woman) lost their lives as their blood flowed to water the soil of revolution.

                 Another form of action is what the Party calls acts of sabotage. These include attacks (for example in Kabre and Baglun) against such targets as the Agricultural Development Banks which are a pillar of comprador and feudal domination in the countryside. During these attacks loan papers are often burned. Premises of NGOs and INGOs (International Non-Governmental Organizations) that play a role in perpetuating poverty in the countryside as well as premises of comprador capitalists have also been raided, and on some occasions weapons and grain have been seized. Such actions as burning the loan papers, apart from actually destroying the records of unjust and back-breaking loans, point towards the new class relations the Party is fighting for.

                 One form of military action has been the selective annihilation of local tyrants and other elements hated by the masses, among whom are informers as well as police officers responsible for the arrests and killings of comrades. For generations, the heavy burden of the caste system, feudal oppression and tradition have weighed heavily on the backs of the people. Now the time has come for the masses to have their say and throw their wrath upon those who personify and enforce these oppressive relations.

                 The revolutionaries also regularly organize armed propaganda in the form of torch processions and corner meetings (these are meetings held in neighbourhoods that disperse when the authorities come and then gather again in a different spot). In the course of all these actions the fighters always explain their politics to the masses, expose the enemy and call on people to join and help the revolution. The CPN(M) has several publications that appear regularly, but the distribution of leaflets, graffiti, posters and shouting slogans are other methods the Party uses to train the masses in revolutionary politics.

                 In coordination with military actions, the Second Plan also integrated political, economic, social and cultural activities. These were organized to further educate the masses on the aims of the People̓s War. They also serve to mobilize a wider range of people, including from those sections of the population who, even though not the most oppressd, can be won over in a united front against imperialism and feudalism. One key arena of these united front activities has been the cities.

                 In this context the Kathmandu Valley Bandh (general strike) and Nepal Bandh, 21 August and 12 December 1996 respectively, were carried out under the banner of the National Mass Movement Coordination Committee (NMMCC), a pro-people organization.

                 The Nepal Bandh was called in protest against the Mahakali Treaty, border encroachment, corruption, murder and suppression, according to a press release by the NMMCC. With nearly 2.27 per cent of the world̓s water resources, Nepal is one of the richest countries in water resources in the world and has a capacity to produce electricity equivalent to that of Mexico, the USA and Canada combined, yet 40 per cent of the rural population still lack regular supplies of potable water. To the extent this capacity is tapped, it has been through unequal treaties for the benefit of India, which plays the role of the big regional power. In the particular case of the Mahakali Integrated Development Project, Nepal has taken up a project which will cost it a foreign debt of Rs 250 billion (the equivalent of five years of the annual budget), but according to the agreement the electricity generated will be sold to India at give-away prices for years to come. The theft of Nepal̓s resources by India is one feature of a long-standing unequal relationship, which all the Nepalese ruling parties have given their stamp of approval. This has created a strong sense of nationalism and anti-Indian/anti-imperialist feeling among the masses, as well as sections of the national bourgeoisie.

                 During the Bandh, transport, educational institutions, factories and markets of major cities were closed. Hundreds of vehicles were burned by petrol bombs and thousands of people demonstrated in the streets of the Kathmandu Valley. Major cities including Kathmandu, Bhaktpur, Patan, Hetauda, Pokhara, Biratnagar and Nepalganj saw torch-light processions attended by thousands. Three hundred thousand leaflets were distributed all over the country during the Bandh.

                 The Celebration of the first anniversary of the People̓s War was part of the Second Plan. In a burst of activity on this day the Party and the people reaffirmed their determination to continue on the path they have chosen. [See Celebrations of the First Anniversary of the People̓s War, p. 58.]

The State Responds

In response to the People̓s War, the state has unleashed frenzied terror on the masses. In areas where support for revolution is widespread, the police attack and arrest all the young men. As a result, young men have been forced to go into hiding in the nearby mountains and the women have taken over their part of production. A team of human rights activists who visited the village of Kot Gaon in Rolpa during a tour of Western Nepal reported, “When the team arrived at the village it looked quiet and almost desolate. It was found that there were 20 police personnel at the police post located at Madichaur, 10 of them riot police.... The reason why the village looked so desolate was that most of the family members of the village had been to the rice field to work and many of the young boys and men had been compelled to go into hiding due to police terror.” [Human Rights Bulletin, Vol. 8, No. 18, May 1996, published by Forum for Protection of Human Rights, Nepal] Other reports indicate that when attacking villages in the search for activists, the police shoot unarmed people, and when the person they are looking for is not found, they arrest, torture, rape and sometimes kill their family members. The above-mentioned human rights team also reported that the drunken polic forces looted the local inhabitants̓ chickens and goats. Amnesty International̓s March ̓97 report also condemns “the torture and deliberate killing of prisoners or other defenseless individuals” by the state. According to this report, as of November 1996, 1358 people had been arrested and although many were released about 600 remained in detention awaiting trial. Among them are many members of the Magar tribal community and members of lower Hindu castes. As early as March 1997, more than 70 people had been killed in the hands of the enemy.

                 One atrocious example of state terrorism is the killings in Mirul, a small village in Rolpa inhabited by poor peasants of the Kham Magar oppressed nationality, and a stronghold of the CPN(M). On 17 November 1996 the armed police forces and goons from neighbouring areas descended on Mirul, ransacked the peasants̓ houses and took almost the whole adult population into custody. After interrogation and threats, they released most, but five people were taken to nearby jungle and shot dead. Among these were a 70-year-old and a 65-year-old. The body of a young revolutionary woman was set on fire while she was still alive. In the coming weeks the oppression and killing continued. But emboldened by the ongoing People̓s War the people of Mirul did not submit quietly. They took it upon themselves to eliminate the enemy agents in the village and virtually seized the local power in their own hands, and in doing so they set a bright example for other villages.

Election Boycott

    Nepal was ruled for a long time through a partyless Panchayat system of monarchy, but shifted to a constitutional monarchy in the wake of a massive uprising in 1990. The constitutional monarchy, which was established to spread the seeds of reformism and parliamentary illusions among different strata, far from bringing about any real changes continued to serve the semi-colonial, semi-feudal social formation in Nepal. In early 1997 the government began preparing for local elections to be held on 17 May. These are held at the village level, through Village Development Committees (VDCs) and District Development Committees (DDCs) as well as municipalities, to form the local government.

                 The elections provide legitimacy to the feudal and comprador forces and are used by the reactionaries to maintain their rule. With this understanding, the CPN(M) called on people to boycott the elections and thus to reject the old regime while at the same time to fight to build the basis for a new state through the People̓s War.

                 The Party̓s call for boycott was accompanied by a campaign of agitation and propaganda, using posters, leaflets and door-to-door visits to expose the election farce and to call on people to take up the revolutionary struggle instead. Rallies were also organized in major cities, even though pro-Maoist rallies were banned. The processions that were held in support of the boycott policy were attacked by the police and many were arrested.

                 In response to the Party̓s call, hundreds of thousands of people decided not to vote, and in about 40 VDCs nobody even filed for nominations. Soon after, in other VDCs where partial lists had been presented, the nominees pulled out. By the time of the vote 75 VDCs (out of about 4000) did not even have candidates for the election. (This was mainly in Rolpa, Jajarkot, Rukum, Salyan, Gorkha, Baglun and Lamjun as well as Humla, Jumla, Bjura and Dolpa — areas where Party influence is relatively strong.) The elections for these areas were postponed to an undecided date.

                 The overwhelming positive response to the CPN(M)̓s call for a boycott came as a shock to the ruling classes, who were accusing each other of incopetence in dealing with the war. For weeks, Nepali papers carried front page articles voicing the need for the regime to bring in new rules and regulations to defeat the People̓s War. Forces from within the state were criticizing the government for “soft peddling over such grave issues”, and this at the same time that police forces were on a rampage in the countryside, arresting, raping and killing villagers on suspicion of Maoism. There were requests for members of the ruling parties to be armed at the grassroots level and to join in with the armed forces in fighting the Maoists. A Kathmandu Post editorial in May said, “If the government does not act now, people in the affected areas will lose faith not only in the Government̓s ability but also in the democratic process itself [sic]. Then there is also the very strong possibility that the ideological fires of class struggle the Maoists are fanning will spread to other parts.”

                 During the elections the state introduced a security plan involving 20,000 policemen who were mainly concentrated in areas most affected by the People̓s War. The police staged regular raids to intimidate the masses and curb the boycott campaign of the Party. Three types of reserve forces were brought in to strengthen the police, and in addition there were plans for a quick reaction army team to be deployed in every constituency.

                 So far, the reactionary state has relied mainly on the police (who are not the best trained and equipped forces at the enemy̓s disposal) to suppress the revolution, but as the flames of the war spread, the state is concocting new schemes to drown the revolution in blood. Soon after the elections the government started reviewing a new “anti-terrorist” bill (Terrorism and Disruptive Crime [Prevention and Punishment] Bill) which will grant sweeping powers to the police and the administration. This has given rise to outrage among people of all walks of life in Nepal, and the Party has launched a political offensive against the bill. Under the leadership of the NMMCC, 9 political parties and fronts launched a series of Nepal Bandhs, the first on 29 August 1997, and several more were to follow. Tens of thousands of people, from human rights activists and lawyers to writers and artists, have been mobilized, and a broad united front has been established.

                 It should be mentioned that the United Nepal Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) (UML), a revisionist grouping who in summer ̓97 was playing a major role in the government, has been pushing for this “anti-terrorist” bill through one of its leaders, the deputy prime minister Gautam. He was quoted in the Kathmandu Post in August ̓97 as saying “they [CPN(M)] are terrorists and need to be dealt with sternly by enacting a strong anti-terrorism law.” In response to some inside his party who have raised questions about the need for this bill, he said, “Those who argue that tough laws are not needed can be accused of promoting terrorism.” The revisionist monarchists of UML sound more and more like Peru̓s Fujimori.

                 At the same time, the government has been reinforcing its military presence by setting up military camps at Rolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot and Dang. Two army battalions have been sent to Western Nepal and are preparing a suppression campaign. When in Peru, in 1984 the army entered to replace the police in fighting the PCP, our comrades and the masses faced unspeakable cruelty and genocide and according to the PCP comrades themselves, it was a time of unprecedented difficulty for the People̓s War. The introduction of the better armed and trained army to the battlefield in Nepal would pose new dangers and challenges to the revolution.

The People̓s War advances

                 In May, the Party announced that the Second Plan was coming to a conclusion and the Party was preparing the initial stage of the third phase. The Party̓s assessment was that during the first stages of the People̓s War (First and Second Plans) the fighting ability of the Party had grown and the Party was developing a professional guerrilla force. The Third Plan started from 17 August under the slogan “Develop Guerrilla War to the Next Higher Stage”. One of the aims of this third stage is to expand the areas of influence, especially to the Terai region. (This is the rice-growing southern plains where Nepal borders India; it is the most populated part of the country, with many inhabitants of Indian origin.) The mobilization against the proposed “anti-terrorist” act is also part of the Third Plan.

                 The activities of the guerrillas are mainly concentrated on the historic strongholds of the Party, mostly the mid-Western hills and some parts of the Eastern hills. Having consolidated some of its base and in response to the enthusiasm expressed by the masses in other areas to join the People̓s War, the Party is set to expand to new areas. One example is given in a report printed in the pro-people Janadesh Weekly, July ̓97, from Dang, in Rapti zone, an area of extreme polarization where Maoist activity is spreading gradually. This was an area of peasant uprisings in the ̓60s where the movement was defeated because of a wrong line. This area is inhabited by people of the Tharu nationality who are exploited by one big landlord (who is also a leading person in the Nepal Congress Party). Guerrillas took over the local market where they made speeches telling people about the People̓s War and Maoism, called on them to support the revolution and asked for donations from villagers. Many people, including small shopkeepers, donated willingly. During this action the guerrillas also set the landlord̓s house on fire (landlords typically live in the capital so he wasn̓t there). Stung by this, the reactionaries retaliated by harassing the masses for their support for the guerrillas.

Twists and Turns

                 Nepalese society is marked by the contradiction between a handful of ruling feudal and comprador bureaucratic capitalist classes and the overwhelming majority of the oppressed masses. This contradiction is getting more acute and polarization is intensifying. The crisis gripping the Nepalese regime has been sharpened by the upsurge of the masses since 1990. There have been five different governments in the last seven years since the restoration of the multi-party parliamentary system. The coalition that was forming the government until October ̓97 included the Rastriya Prajantantra Party (RPR), a reincarnation of the reactionary royalist forces who still control the army, the police and the bureaucracy. Another member of the coalition was the Sadbhavana Party (SP), a regional party of pro-Indian landlords and bourgeoisie of the Terai region. And finally, the United Nepal Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist). The UML, with its Marxist-Leninist trademark and its organizational network (the largest among the ruling classes), has become a handy tool to confuse the masses. (This coalition collapsed in October to be replaced by another one headed by RPP leader Surya Bahadur Thapa and supported, among others, by the Nepali Congress Party).

                 The new government̓s plans to join in the World Trade Organization will further polarize the economy, as Nepal tunes its economy to WTO obligations to qualify for membership. Among these conditions is that member nations need to cut tariffs and dismantle non-tariff barrirs to trade, measures that would open up the country even more to imperialist capital. This will have a devastating affect on small-scale and home-based production units such as in the garment field. All this will help isolate the puppet regime and strengthen the basis for continuing the People̓s War.

                 One reason the People̓s War is said to be a clarifying factor is that many self-proclaimed “revolutionary” forces are forced to show their true colours in opposing the rising masses. Most notable among these has been the UML who, despite their claim to be Marxist-Leninists, are one of the main forces in a government that is brutally suppressing the masses and their revolution. There are also other forces such as the Nepal Communist Party (Mashal) who instead of rectifying their mistakes and welcoming the People̓s War have decided instead to turn their backs on revolution. 

                 The People̓s War has brought the fundamental weakness of the old state in Nepal to the light of day and has awakened hope among the masses of the oppressed, even beyond the borders of the country. This will not go unnoticed by the imperialists and the other reactionaries in the region, particularly India, which historically has been the dominating force in Nepal. The experience of the People̓s War in Peru is proof that the imperialists and reactionaries will not spare a single effort to crush the revolution. But the same contradictions that gave rise to the revolution in Nepal are brewing also in India, and any attempt by India to intervene will cause fierce opposition not only in Nepal but in India itself. It is impossible to predict the course of events in Nepal, and as the CPN(M) says (quoting Lenin), the revolution always creates in its course of development an unusual and complex situation. The road to victory will no doubt be full of twists and turns but the downtrodden of Nepal are coming forward as active creators of a new social order, and a whole new generation of youth is being trained in the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.