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Movement Fights Poverty and Oppression in Nepal

by staff |
July 1, 2005
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Nepalese fighters in the countryside.
Nepalese fighters in the countryside. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

The government of Nepal is in trouble. Nepal is ruled by King Gyanendra, who shared power with an elected legislative assembly until Feb. 1. On that day, King Gyanendra abolished the assembly, banned the legal political parties in the assembly and arrested their leaders and censored the media and Internet.

This was an act of desperation to stave off a revolution. King Gyanendra seized total power in order to focus all the government’s attention on trying to defeat Nepal’s growing revolutionary movement.

Revolution Brewing

There is a powerful revolutionary movement in Nepal, led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The CPN(M) took up arms in 1996, forming the People’s Liberation Army and beginning a protracted people’s war based in the countryside. Their ideology and guerrilla war strategy are inspired by Mao Zedong, the leader of the Chinese revolution.

Nepal is a landlocked country surrounded on one side by the Tibetan region of China, and on the other side by India. Nepal is home to the Himalayan Mountains, which include Mount Everest and many of the other highest mountain peaks in the world. Among the poorest and least developed countries in the world, Nepal is a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country. 80% of the population lives in the countryside or is dependent on the agricultural economy. Its economy and politics have long been dominated by the United States and neighboring India. The dire poverty and extremely mountainous terrain provide ideal conditions for guerrilla warfare.

The Rise of the CPN(M)

The CPN(M) began the armed struggle in 1996 with few arms - they decided that for real change in Nepal, there would need to be a revolution. They determined that no reforms to the monarchy would be enough to liberate Nepal’s bitterly poor and oppressed workers and peasants.

The CPN(M)’s power and influence grew quickly after they initially built base areas in the western part of the country. Their influence spread to other areas as they carried out mass organizing to address the problems of the people while also building the People’s Liberation Army to overthrow the old state. In most rural areas, the CPN(M) is already the de-facto government.

They are using the strategy of protracted people’s war that was developed in the Chinese revolution. This means they start by building base areas of support in the countryside and gradually expand their sphere of influence to surround the cities from the countryside - until they’re strong enough to defeat the military head-on in the capital, Kathmandu. Though the CPN(M) is based in the countryside, their supporters do political work in the cities too, building mass struggles and fightbacks in the cities and working to bring the urban and rural movements together for a countrywide revolution when the time is right.

Last year the CPN(M) announced they had reached the stage of ‘strategic offensive’ in the people’s war. In the people’s war strategy, this is the final stage in the revolutionary process. This means that the CPN(M) will continue to build their strength and bide their time to decide when the time is right to confront the Royal Nepal Army directly at their strongest point, in the capital. If the rebels take Kathmandu, they will abolish the monarchy and the old state and begin the process of carrying out the New Democratic revolution.

Particularly since the Feb. 1 coup, the CPN(M) has tried to build an alliance with the political parties that the king outlawed - the biggest ones being the Congress Party and the CPN(UML) - with the goal of getting rid of the king and ending the monarchy. To date those parties have not united with the CPN(M) against the king, though there has been evidence of some possible moves in that direction. The CPN(M) tries to build this united front with the bourgeois parliamentary parties in order to strike the main blow at the king and end Nepal’s remnants of feudalism and colonialism.

The CPN(M)’s strategy to build this alliance is through their call for the formation of a representative Constituent Assembly that would bring together all political forces except the king, in order to abolish the monarchy and create a new democratic republic to replace the current ‘constitutional monarchy.’ Their call for an end to the monarchy is increasingly popular since the king suppressed the previously legal political parties. In this new political context, the CPN(M) is the only party able to effectively organize against the king, since they are armed and have base areas in substantial areas of the country. They called major multi-day strikes since the Feb. 1 coup, which were very successful, paralyzing transportation in the country and cutting off the capital. They have announced that they have more anti-monarchy protest actions planned.

Short term and day-to-day developments in Nepal are difficult to predict due to the king’s blanket of repression and censorship. Media reports from Nepal are no longer reliable, so reports of scores of rebels killed must be taken with a grain of salt. Now the Nepali media is censored from reporting anything about the revolutionary movement except what the government says, so the king is inventing propaganda to try to discredit the revolutionary movement and confuse the masses of people by making it look like the revolution is losing or is divided.

Since all news coming out of Nepal is censored, it is important to remember the basic facts: the king is isolated and coming from a position of weakness, and the revolutionary movement is strong, with huge liberated areas in the countryside and an already-powerful people’s army. The larger-scale battles that are being reported in the countryside and the alarm-bells being sounded by the U.S. Embassy make it clear that the revolution in Nepal is advancing and the monarchy is in trouble.