One Year of People's War in Nepal

From The Worker

Revolutionary Worker #911, June 15, 1997

On February 13, 1996, the oppressed people of Nepal took a historic step--the launching of armed struggle for liberation. This people's war is led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), a participating party in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. On the first anniversary of the initiation of the people's war, the CPN(M) published issue No. 3 of The Worker, which includes summations of the first year of the war and other important articles. For the information of our readers, the RW is reprinting in two parts one of the articles from this issue.

The Background

** The Objective Conditions

Nepal is a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country, as nearly 90 percent of the population is engaged in backward agriculture (with only 10 percent of urban population!) and the country is fettered by various semi-colonial unequal treaties with foreign powers (particularly India). The present centralized state was founded two-and-a-quarter century ago under the leadership of a feudal chieftain of Indo-Aryan stock (Prithvi Narayan Shah, the forefather of the present king) by subjugating different tribal states mostly inhabited by the Tibeto-Burman (or Mongoloid) and Austro-Dravidian stocks. Since 1816 the country was absorbed into a semi-colonial bondage with the then British-India (though it was never colonized by any foreign power) and since 1950 into semi-colonial relations with a number of other imperialist powers. As bureaucratic capitalism has been growing steadily within the wombs of feudalism over the years the external form of the reactionary state has undergone several changes to the present constitutional monarchial multi-party parliamentary system since 1990, but retaining the essential hegemony of the feudal and comprador and bureaucratic capitalist classes. Hence the society and state are constantly beset with a set of irreconcilable contradictions in class, national and regional terms that have given rise to a cycle of crisis one after the other.

Currently this crisis is manifest in different forms and is seen getting more acute every passing day. Total stagnation of society and absolute low level of productive forces is reflected in a mere 180 U.S. dollar per capita of Gross Domestic Product (second lowest in the world!), a pathetic 1.25 percent of labor force engagement in industry, 71 percent of population below absolute poverty line, 60 percent illiteracy rate, etc. Amidst this low level of social development the extremely high degree of class polarization and inequality is marked by 10 percent of landlords and rich peasants owning 65 percent of cultivable land against 65 percent of poor peasants owning a mere 10 percent of the land, the richest 10 percent of society gobbling up 46.5 percent of national income, etc. Similarly, whereas even according to the IMF standards a country's position is regarded as "critical" when its foreign debt is more than 200-250 percent of its export trade or its debt servicing exceeds 20 percent of its export trade, in the case of Nepal the respective figures had exceeded 600 percent and 35 percent in 1994/95 and they are rising further every passing year. This is an unmistakable sign of crisis engendered by imperialist/expansionist domination and attendantly burgeoning bureaucratic capitalism. Thus it is no doubt that the contradiction of the general masses of the people with feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism assume primacy in the social dynamics of Nepal.

Moreover ever since the days of formation of the centralized state more than a dozen nationalities mostly of the Mongoloid and Austric races (e.g. Magar, Tamang, Tharu, Newar, Gurung, Rai, Limbu, Danuwar, Sherpa, Sunuwar, Rajbansi, etc.), who constitute a combined majority of the total population, have been subjected to political, economic and cultural domination by the ruling Arya-Khas nationality. In recent years the contradictions of the state with the oppressed nationalities have sharpened further. Together with this, as a result of the dynamics of polarized development inherent in bureaucratic capitalism vast mountainous regions and remote areas (e.g. the Kamali region in Western Nepal) have been turned into sorts of "internal colonies" of the centralized state. This process of regional uneven and unequal development is giving rise to sharp regional contradictions in the country.

The reactionary state has been increasingly failing to manage these multifarious class, national and regional contradictions within the ambits of its old structure. Rather the state itself has been progressively sliding into deeper crisis as manifest in the "hung" parliament, frequent change of governments, pervading environment of instability and increasing recourse to naked fascist measures against the people. This calls for and provides an apt objective basis for the New Democratic restructuring of the society and state through revolutionary means.

** The Subjective Factor

These objective conditions for the revolutionary transformations of the society and state had been generally prevailing for quite a long time. What was essentially lacking was the conscious subjective efforts of the vanguard Party of the proletariat. Though the peasant masses and isolated revolutionary individuals had at times spontaneously revolted against the exploitation and oppression by the feudal rulers, it could not have led into any meaningful revolutionary change in the absence of an organized leadership of the most advanced class of the society. Particularly there was strong anti-colonial and patriotic sentiment against the Britishers amongst the people, as the brave Gorkha fighters had never reconciled with their defeat against the British colonialists leading to the ignominious semi-colonial treaty of 1816. But there was no effective leadership to channel that sentiment.

The founding of the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) in 1949 paved the way for generating such a leadership for an anti-feudal and anti-imperialist New Democratic revolution in the country. But the Party leadership that was stuck in the quagmire of one or the other form of reformism miserably failed to chart out the basic path of the revolution, not to speak of leading the masses in a people's war. Consequently the occasional spontaneous armed revolts of the masses or small breakaway factions could not be sustained for long and the first four decades of the communist movement in the country were frittered away in mere squabbles over inconsequential issues.

Only the Unity Congress held in December 1991 of the then reconstituted CPN (Unity Centre), which was then rechristened as CPN (Maoist), adopted for the first time a clear-cut political line of protracted people's war for carrying out the New Democratic revolution in the country with a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideological perspective. However, when the question of implementation of the political line within the party came up there ensued a vicious two line struggle against a right liquidationist clique, which was finally defeated and expelled from the Party in May 1994. After the consolidation of the Party along the revolutionary line, the Third Central Plenum of the Party held in March 1995 chalked out a detailed politico-military policy and programme outlining the strategy and tactics of people's war in the country and made a final decision to launch the war. This was followed by six months of hectic preparations primarily to remold the old organizational structure into a fighting machine. Then a Central Committee meeting of the Party held in September 1995 adopted the "Plan for the Historical Initiation of the People's War," which defined the theoretical basis and goal of the war and formulated detailed plan and programme for the final preparation and initiation of the war. As part of the final politico-ideological preparation (while organizational-technical preparations continued underground) a series of countrywide mass meetings under the banner of the popular united front organization, United People's Front-Nepal (UPF), were held to be crowned by a massive public rally attended by more than 50,000 people in the heart of the capital city of Kathmandu on December 7, 1995. Meanwhile, a vicious armed police operation, code-named "Romeo Operation," launched by the reactionary state against the rural class struggle going on for some time in Rolpa district in Western Hills and a countrywide public outcry against the state repression, provided a perfect setting to initiate the people's war. In this light the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Party that met briefly in January 1996 made the final selection of the date of the historic initiation for February 13 (i.e. the first day of the month of Falgun according to the Vikrami calendar followed in Nepal).

Thus had the vanguard Party of the Nepal proletariat, steeled from years of inner-party struggle and class struggle, made the final big leap to create history by leading the initiation of the armed people's war on the day of February 13, 1996.

The First Plan:
Initiation and Continuation

As outlined in the Third Plenum document "Strategy and Tactics of Armed Struggle in Nepal," there would be three strategic stages of protracted people's war, namely Strategic Defense, Strategic Stalemate and Strategic Offense. And within the Strategic Defense, there would be several tactical stages, namely Final Preparation for Initiation, Development of Guerrilla Zones, Development of Base Areas, etc. Hence after the completion of the phase of Final Preparation for Initiation, a plan for the Initiation was worked out, which was again visualized to be implemented and develop in sub-phases. The First Plan, envisaged to cover the actual initiation of the first day and the continuation for some time thereof, say about a month or so. The basic objectives of the first plan, as outlined in the "Plan for the Historical Initiation of the People's War," were to make a practical leap into and establish amongst the masses of the people the politics of armed revolution for capturing political power and to initiate the process of making the people's army as the principal form of organization and the armed activities as the principal form of struggle. Hence with a clarion call of "it is right to rebel" the emphasis was placed on arousing the masses to rebel against the oppressive system and the state, and the selection of targets and the forms of actions were designed to give correct political message and derive maximum political propaganda rather than to make any material gain in the very beginning.

As planned, on February 13, one police outpost each in Rolpa and Rukum in Western Hills, an Agricultural Development Bank and a distillery factory in Gorkha in Central Hills, a police outpost in Sindhuli and the house of feudal-usurer in Kavre in Eastern Hills and the factory of a multi-national company (Pepsi Cola) in the Kathmandu Valley, were systematically attacked by the armed squads (accompanied by the supporter masses at several places) with great precision to herald the historic initiation. These seven targets in different districts and regions were selected purposefully in keeping with the geophysical and socio-political specificities of Nepal and not to allow the enemy to concentrate its repressive armed forces on any particular area. On the same evening hundreds of thousands of revolutionary leaflets and posters issued by the Party were distributed all over the country to spread the political message of the people's war among the masses.

From the morrow, also as planned, ensued a wave of guerrilla actions, sabotage and propaganda actions all over the country in continuation of the initiation. Within three weeks about 5000 actions, mostly of propaganda nature, had taken place in the far and wide corners of the country. National media was agog with the "ghost" of people's war. All the political forces and politically minded persons were forced to take a position vis-a-vis the new politics. Thus the politics of revolutionary armed struggle was firmly established in the country within a very short span of time.

As the basic objectives of the First Plan were already fulfilled, the Party issued an inner circular to restrain further actions of offense but permitting the defensive actions. This step was deemed necessary and important as otherwise the initial "rebellion" could be misunderstood as "insurrection," and the essential protracted nature of the people's war had to be emphasized and grasped firmly from the very beginning.

A severe tremor and shock wave had rocked the reactionary ruling classes and their state by then. Hence after an initial vacillation the reactionary state went into a mad frenzy and let loose its armed might upon the revolutionary forces and the masses. Scores of persons were shot dead in Gorkha, Rukum, Jajarkot and Rolpa; thousands were taken into custody and brutally tortured; arson, looting, rape of the peasant masses knew no bounds.

At the end of March, the PB of the Party met to take stock of the situation and charter the future course of actions. It was resolved that the initiation was a tremendous success and the emphasis now would be to mobilize the masses in favor of the people's war and continue the war in a planned manner. Accordingly overt and covert programs were launched throughout the country to mobilize the masses and to build public opinion against the government repression and in favor of the people's war. As the reactionary state, as expected, virtually obstructed the open mass activities of the various front organizations, new methods and forms of organization were devised to carry out open activities. In this context open denunciation by leading human rights organizations and prominent public figures of state terrorism and widespread human rights violations contributed significantly to take winds off the sails of the repressive state. Meanwhile armed squads continued carrying out selected guerrilla actions and propaganda campaigns. Soon the reactionary state was caught up in such a pitiable situation the Prime Minister himself went on record to call for a dialogue with the revolutionary forces and formation of a committee to pursue the dialogue was announced in the Parliament. The Party rightly saw through the conspiracy in the whole exercise and exposed it as such through various means.

At the end of the month of June the CC of the Party made a final summation of the successful conclusion of the First Plan and drew out the Second Plan.

(To be continued: The Second Plan; the Implications, Lessons and Future Perspective.)

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