People's War in Nepal

February 13, 1999: 3 Years of Armed Struggle

Revolutionary Worker #994, February 14, 1999

Nepal is one of the poorest countries on earth. Long-oppressed by imperialism, it is a country which cries out for change. The masses of people, especially the rural poor, live in appalling conditions. 70% of the people live below the absolute poverty line. 60% are illiterate. 10% of landlords and rich peasants own 65% of the cultivable land. But now, for the last three years, the masses in Nepal have been waging armed guerrilla warfare--aimed at overthrowing this whole set-up of misery and impoverishment.

For many years there has been a large and active Maoist movement in Nepal with much struggle over how to lead the masses to achieve genuine liberation. On February 13, 1996, this struggle took a gigantic and historic leap with the initiation of a new People's War. Shortly after this, The Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement said:

"The revolutionary masses have a new reason to celebrate as the sparks of People's War kindled on February 13th leap across the Himalayas of Nepal and begin to catch fire amongst the workers and peasants. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), a participant in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, has dared to initiate a war which will no doubt be protracted and bitterly fought but that has already begun to transform Nepal from a backward and oppressed country to an advanced outpost of the world proletarian revolution. This inspiring development has great implications for the South Asia region and indeed the whole world by once again reaffirming the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist principle that the masses can liberate themselves only through armed revolutionary struggle."

The people of Nepal face the three mountains of semi-feudalism, bureaucrat 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 countries like Nepal, and clear the way for the advance to socialism.

On February 13, 1996, the masses in Nepal took a daring leap onto this road of protracted people's war. And since then, in the face of vicious counter-revolutionary assaults by the government--the revolution has continued to spread throughout the country and sink deep roots among the people.

Since August 1997, the CPN (Maoist) has been mobilizing to implement the Third Strategic Plan to "Develop Guerrilla Warfare to New Heights," which has entailed raising the military ability of the revolutionary forces both qualitatively and quantitatively. An editorial in The Worker explains that in essence this means "The creation of a base for local organs of political power and raising the political, organizational and technical level of the people's guerrilla army so as to be able to contend with the rival army in the prospective guerrilla zones."

This effort has forged ahead. The People's War has spread, covering the central hilly region from the west to the east of Nepal. In hundreds of villages the masses have been drawn into new forms of participation in the People's War, including logistics support and making weapons. And one of the key successes of the Third Strategic Plan has been that in several hundred villages across Nepal the local officials have been forced to flee, creating a power vacuum that the revolutionaries have seized on. New organs of local power are being built, called three-in-one combinations since they are formed of representatives of the Party, the army and the local masses.

The following descriptions of how the people's war in Nepal began is taken from articles that have appeared in The Revolutionary Worker; the Worker, published by the Publications Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist); and A World To Win, a revolutionary internationalist magazine which has been inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement:


An Inter Press Service report on the start of people's war in Nepal said: "In an unprecedented series of coordinated raids, [the CPN (Maoist)] attacked police posts and land-owners in six remote mountain districts of Nepal.... Masked men and women struck under cover of night, looting police outposts and houses of the rich, and in the western Rolpa district waging a one-and-half-hour gun battle with police.... The attacks were serious enough to jolt the political establishment here which is still too shocked to say anything."

One of the first actions of the people's war was 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.

In the evening (between 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.) three police outposts, one each in Rolpa and Rokum districts in western Nepal, were seized by armed youths shouting Marxist-Leninist-Maoist slogans. In Rolpa district, which had been in the forefront of militant resistance struggle for several years, the police outpost at Holeri was stormed by a militant team armed with local weapons and explosives. As the policemen were ready to surrender everything except their rifles, there ensued an exchange of fire from both sides for almost two hours.

In a similar move at Athboskot-Rari police outpost in the neighboring Rukum district, also known as a stronghold of Maoist communists, the outpost was easily captured without any resistance from the policemen. The armed raiding team took possession of a large amount of explosives and other utilities and valuables and escaped safely after making their revolutionary intentions clear to the captured policemen. In the third case of Sindhuli district, the police outpost at the historical Sindhuligarhi was captured without any resistance whatsoever. After making a long discourse on New Democratic revolution to the captured policemen and their families, the militants escaped with a substantial amount of high explosives and other utilities.

There were also 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.

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).

The goals of this initial campaign were: (1) To establish the politics of armed struggle; (2) 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; and (3) To prepare the basis for developing guerrilla zones.

Nepal's reactionary rulers seem to have been 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 Nepali 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 and personnel there were made to suffer indignities. In addition, these gangs looted arms and explosives."

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.

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!

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 were arrested, and the police 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.

In a statement passed out 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 defense.

"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...."

And as an editorial in The Worker (No. 2) stated, "The Party has unequivocally declared in the `Plan for the Historic Initiation of the People's War' this people's war is aimed at creating a New Democratic state, then marching towards socialism and then finally towards communism through a continuous series of cultural revolutions under the dictatorship of the proletariat, and thus it is an integral part and parcel of world proletarian revolution. Hence once it is started, it will follow the objective law of development of people's war through its different strategic stages and take different twists and turns, but it will never stop until it has attained its final goal, i.e. a classless society of universal communism, as so brilliantly espoused by Mao in his theory of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat.... We definitely are in a long arduous warpath, as the enemy is formidable, but we are in for inevitable victory, for our cause is righteous and just. The best homage to our martyrs, therefore, would be the persistent pursual of the path of proletarian revolution until the final victory is achieved, and that, we resolve with all determination and courage, we will."

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