Nepal: Salute to the First Year of People's War

Revolutionary Worker #894, February 16, 1997

The people's war for liberation in Nepal began on February 13, 1996 with coordinated actions in several regions carried out by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The actions that day and the following weeks were concentrated in rural regions of western and central Nepal, but there were also others across the country.

The June 1996 issue of the Worker, published by the CPN(M), described one of the first actions of the people's war--a takeover of a government-owned agricultural bank in Gorkha in central Nepal by a group of revolutionaries, men and women. "At first the masses gathered outside the office, located in a small village bazaar, and, while one of the youths gave a brief speech exposing the mechanism of exploitation of poor peasants by the Bank and highlighting the need of capturing it by the peasants, another group overpowered the staff inside the office and took possession of all the official papers...the loan papers signed by the peasants and the land registration certificates (known as Lalpurja) deposited by the peasants as collateral were seized. While the Lalpurjas were kept safe to be returned later to the respective peasants in the surrounding villages, a bonfire was made out of the loan papers worth several million rupees and other documents. Then after a brief parting speech by one of them, the masses of people dispersed quickly and safely to their respective places. The whole thing was over within about half an hour and the nearest police outpost about a kilometer away was caught totally unaware."

On the same day, three police outposts--in Rolpa and Rukum in western Nepal and one in Sindhuli in eastern Nepal--were temporarily taken over by armed youths. And the Worker reported that there were planned assaults against three other targets: a soft drink bottling factory in the capital city of Kathmandu, owned by a multi-national corporation; a liquor factory in Gorkha, owned by a comprador bourgeois (local capitalist tied to and subservient to the imperialists); and a house of a notorious feudal reactionary in Kavre in eastern Nepal. And, according to the Worker, ``Thousands of leaflets and posters containing the appeal of the Party to the general masses to march along the path of people's war to smash the reactionary state and establish a New Democratic state, were distributed in major cities and headquarters of more than 60 districts (out of a total of 75 districts)."

After this grand opening day, many more actions followed in the first phase of the people's war in Nepal. According to the Worker, "Following the historic initiation and general appeal of the Party, different types of militant and armed actions sprang up in lightning speed almost all over the country. Within three weeks of the initiation and appeal, about 5,000 actions had taken place in about 65 districts of the country."

The upcoming issue of the revolutionary internationalist journal A World to Win, which will feature important coverage on the people's war in Nepal, explains the goals of this initial campaign:

"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."

Not surprisingly, the start of the people's war was received in very different ways by the masses of people and by the reactionary rulers of Nepal. A World to Win notes: "As the news of the initiation swept across the country, a wave of enthusiasm spread among the masses of 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!"

Nepal's rulers were shocked by the start of the people's war, and at least some specifics of it appear to have taken them by surprise. An editorial in the Kathmandu Post, reflecting the views of some sections of the ruling class, complained: "These simultaneous attacks...must have required a lot of planning and time for gathering arms, choosing targets and collecting the necessary persons. And yet our intelligence knew nothing. As a result, the thinly manned and totally unprepared police posts were overwhelmed...."

The government quickly unleashed a major counterrevolutionary campaign. Large numbers of police, paramilitary forces and specially trained commando forces were deployed to the areas affected by the people's war. (The commandos are trained by foreign "advisers," including from the Zionist state of Israel.) The reactionary forces killed over two dozen people just in the first weeks. The first martyr of the people's war--an 11-year-old boy--was shot by police firing on school children and peasants attempting to rescue a popular local teacher from the police. Hundreds of people have been arrested, and the police have carried out widespread torture, rape and beatings.

One sign of the government's fear of mass support for the people's war was the banning of three popular music cassettes made by a revolutionary cultural organization led by the CPN(M). The police seized the cassettes from shops and vendors all over the country. But this only created an even bigger demand for the cassettes.

Oppression and Resistance
in the Himalayas

Nepal is located between India and China, and large parts of the country are in the foothills of the Himalaya range, which has some of the highest mountains in the world. Close to 90 percent of the 20 million people of Nepal are peasants. They suffer from semi-feudal oppression--lack of land to work on, extreme poverty and hunger, the brutality of the big landowners and the police enforcers.

Almost one-third of Nepal's working people are forced to seek jobs outside the country in order to survive. Most go to India, and there are also many who travel to other countries in Asia and the Persian Gulf. Desperate peasant families are forced to "sell" their daughters into prostitution in order to fend off starvation. There is a booming slave traffic that supplies brothels in India with young Nepali girls.

Besides the landlords, the Nepali ruling class consists of comprador/bureaucrat capitalists who are closely linked and subservient to the imperialists and Indian expansionists. The imperialist powers are involved in Nepal through capitalist "foreign aid," "development programs" and some direct investments. India itself is dominated by imperialism, but the Indian rulers are in a position to act as a regional power and dominate Nepal and other smaller neighboring countries.

Up until 1990, Nepal was ruled by a monarchy headed by a Hindu king. Widespread mass unrest forced a change to a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. The current parliament is dominated by traditional ruling class parties. The main parliamentary opposition is a revisionist party--which calls itself "communist" but is actually a bourgeois party with a thin reformist cover.

The parliament has brought no improvement at all to the lives of the impoverished masses--nor to the middle strata who are increasingly squeezed by the capitalist "liberalization" policies of the government (and its imperialist and Indian backers). A statement from the CPN(M) Central Committee, distributed as a leaflet and passed out by the hundreds of thousands across Nepal after the initiation of the people's war, pointed out: "Today the Nepalese society is in a state of grave crisis, whether economically, politically, culturally or otherwise. Where has the present state that has been harping about development and construction for the last fifty years landed Nepal economically? It has landed Nepal to the position of second poorest country in the world after Ethiopia. This state that does not manufacture even a needle in the name of self-reliant and national economy, has handed over the whole economy of the country to a dozen families of the foreign comprador and bureaucratic capitalist. Whereas these handful of plunderers have become billionaires, the real masters of this country and the national property, the toiling masses of Nepal, are forced to eke out a meager existence of deprivation and poverty."

The people of Nepal face the "three mountains" of semi-feudalism, bureaucratic capitalism and imperialism. Mao Tsetung pioneered the military strategy of protracted people's war as the road to liberation for people in oppressed countries. Protracted people's war mobilizes the peasantry as the main fighting force, under the leadership of the proletarian party. And it develops step-by-step, building base areas and surrounding the cities--the stronghold of the ruling class--from the countryside, as the revolutionary forces gain strength for a nationwide seizure of power. The aim of the protracted people's war is to carry out what Mao called the "New Democratic Revolution"--in order to overthrow the three mountains pressing down on the people of Nepal and clear the way for the advance to socialism.

Leading Up to the Initiation

During the last several years, there have been clear signs of support for Maoist politics in Nepal. Tens of thousands have been involved in various aspects of the political movement led by Maoists in the late 1980s and '90s--a period of intense political turmoil. Hundreds of people marched through Kathmandu on December 26, 1993 to launch a year-long commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of Mao's birth. There has been a very active campaign in Nepal to support the people's war in Peru led by the Communist Party of Peru.

The situation intensified further in late 1995 when the government launched a massive repression campaign in Rolpa and Rukum in western Nepal. Their main targets were the CPN(M), the United People's Front (UPF--a nationwide mass organization led by the party), and the embryonic fighting squads. But this attempt to crush the revolutionaries turned into its opposite--sparking broad and determined mass resistance led by the CPN(M) and the UPF, and giving further impetus to the preparations by the party for the initiation of the people's war.

A delegation from the UPF, led by Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and Pampa Bhusai, delivered a memorandum to the prime minister demanding an end to the repression and declaring the demands of the people. Large mass meetings were held all over the country in almost every district and major town, to oppose the repression and support the CPN(M)'s basic programme.

Military preparations in this period included the widely reported seizure of 40,000 pieces of explosive detonators and one hundred kilograms of fuses from a military warehouse. The government failed miserably in its high-profile operation to recover this huge stock of seized explosives.

It was in the context of this rapid intensification of class struggle that the CPN(M) took the daring and momentous first step of the people's war on February 13.

People's War in Nepal Continues

As the enemy began its counter-attack, the CPN(M) was summing up the beginning of the people's war and making further plans to continue through all the twists and turns of the struggle. The June 1996 issue of the Worker reported: "The party successfully held a meeting of the political bureau of the Central Committee after one month of the initiation of the people's war and made a detailed review of the overall situation. It was concluded that the initiation was historic and subsequent developments basically as envisaged beforehand. Taking into account some of the weaknesses and mistakes as well, which were minor compared to the basic successes and achievements, the political bureau meeting chalked out a future strategy to develop the people's war to higher stages."

Recently, it seems that there have been new developments in the revolutionary struggle in Nepal--with a new, second phase of the guerrilla war underway and also some significant struggle in the cities. While we have no official confirmation from the CPN(M) of these developments, the RW received a recent correspondence from a supporter of the people's war in Nepal about these events. According to the correspondence, "The second plan--`Develop guerrilla war in a planned way'--is being carried out since October 1996." The letter also reported that a very successful general strike paralyzed Kathmandu and other cities on December 12. The strike was called by the National Mass Movement Coordination Committee, which is led by the CPN(M) to organize mass movements in the cities.

In the statement that was leafleted after the February 13, 1996 initiation of the people's war, the Central Committee of the CPN(M) pointed to the hard and complex road that lay ahead, declared its determination to continue on this road until the enemy is defeated, and expressed confidence in the masses of people in Nepal and worldwide:

"What we are fully conscious about is that this war for breaking the shackles of slavery since thousands of years and establishing a New Democratic state would be quite uphill, full of twists and turns and of a protracted nature. But this and this alone is the path of people's liberation and a great and bright future. This path will unfold by making use of all forms of struggle in keeping with the historical stages of development of Nepal and principally, as we have been saying all along, according to the strategy of encircling the city from the countryside, with agrarian revolution as the axis and from the midst of and in conjunction with the rural class struggle. This process of people's war in the context of the present balance of forces will move forward through the process of people's guerrilla warfare within the stage of strategic defence.

"What we are confident about is that the masses of the people of all classes and categories will extend active support and help to this revolutionary process and it will be victorious. Besides this, what we are also conscious and confident about, is that this struggle will get support and help from the communist revolutionaries and struggling masses the world over and this will in turn assist all those revolutionaries. Because this struggle of ours will be a part and parcel of the world proletarian revolution...."

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