In Nepal, we developed the People’s War from 1996 to 2005. We went from strategic defensive to strategic offensive. Back in 1996, we had neither army nor weapons, but we launched a people’s war.
Today, our People’s Liberation Army is confined to seven camps or cantonments and 14 satellite camps. The UN has registered 31,000 fighters in our army. Yet when we started we had no army at all. We were our own army.
Nobody had military training or weapons. There was one old rifle that did not fire which we used for training. We called it our full-time rifle as it was passed from one area to the next for full-time use. We now have very sophisticated weapons which are locked up in the cantonments.
We also have a YCL militia of almost 400,000 people. They arrest corrupt people, expose scandals and punish criminals who otherwise would enjoy impunity. They give terror to the reactionaries, but are friendly to the masses.
In 1996, we had a strong organisation in only 20 of the 75 districts of Nepal. We had smaller organisations in another 50 departments. But now we are strong all over the country. We have liberated 80 percent of the population and we were running a parallel government.
Actually, we ran the country. The enemy was confined to big cities and we governed the rest. The People’s War followed the theory of Mao Zedong, going from strategic equilibrium to strategic offensive. The concluding stage of this offensive was the capture of Kathmandu and the major towns, as well as some district headquarters.
We captured the main gate to Kathmandu without suffering any loss. This led the enemy to agree to a peace process. Comrades have asked us why we agreed to participate in a peace process. The reason is that we were not strong enough to capture Kathmandu or to destroy the Royal Nepalese Army.
This army spent most of its time confined to barracks but would occasionally come out and encircle a village, kill all its inhabitants and then claim they had killed Maoists, when in fact they had only killed ordinary people. The Royal Nepalese Army could not defeat us, but we could not capture their barracks either, because they had been fortified by US military experts and were surrounded with land mines. The RNA also had very modern weapons, including helicopters supplied by India. The position was stagnant, and we were looking for a breakthrough.
The political situation was that we had the support of the urban population, but not enough to be able to call for a general insurrection. The masses were politically divided. Because of this, we decided that in order to increase our mass support it was necessary to take other initiatives. A war cannot carry on indefinitely in a static situation. It was essential to find a way forward.
Some people think that waging a people’s war always means confrontation between two armies, but that is simplistic. We must confront the enemy on all fronts – cultural, economic, political, etc.
In 2001 and 2003, we entered into negotiations but we were ignored so we returned to the war. But in 2005 the situation was different. The political situation (which had been created by the 10 years of people’s war) was that there were seven political parties working with the king to smash the People’s War.
It was necessary to split the enemy camp because they were united. We called the various parties to join an alliance to overthrow the monarchy, but in 2001 and 2003 they turned us down. Then Gyanendra staged a coup d’état and arrested the leaders of these parties and put them behind bars and their political parties were declared banned. We give our heartfelt thanks to King Gyanendra for that. We again offered an alliance to the seven parties – and this time the situation compelled them to join with us. Hence the alliance that was forged.
It was a concrete demand of the alliance that it should fight the monarchy, for a republic. This was a common point of agreement. A road map was drawn up and signed by the seven parties, according to which an interim constitution and government were set up and a constituent assembly election was to be held. We agreed to this.
Of course, US imperialism was dead against it. US policy demanded that the seven parties maintain their alliance with the king to smash the People’s War. But the situation on the ground forced the seven parties to ignore US preferences and to ally with us.
Under the agreement, we Maoists were entitled to participate in parliament. The US said that it would suspend aid if the Maoists participated. But we did participate. And the US could do nothing about it and did not cut its aid. The US then said that there should be no Maoists in the government; otherwise it threatened sanctions. Again, we did participate in government, and the US did not impose sanctions.
In India, there was pressure on the government not to supply arms to Nepal, and India did in fact suspend agreed arms shipments. In the meantime, the king thought all reactionaries would support him, but this did not happen. The king went to China and bought arms there. This upset India. Nepal is not allowed to purchase arms without India’s consent. We really thank Gyanendra for that also, since this made India help the negotiation process.
India allowed a meeting to take place on its territory between ourselves on the one hand and the seven parties on the other – a meeting that would have been impossible to organise in Nepal. This was quite a change, because previously India had imprisoned Nepalese Maoists found in its territory, and that included me. Some comrades were handed over to the Royal Nepalese Army, and we were treated as a terrorist organisation. But the situation changed completely once we were in talks with the seven parties for the purpose of an alliance.
These talks gave rise to a 12-point and an 8-point agreement, a common programme for our various parties.
Following this agreement, there were 19 days of mass protest against the monarchy in Nepal. Over 1.5 million people participated – in a city whose population is under 2 million! The king used force against this peaceful mass movement. He sent in tanks. People lay in the road challenging them. The people were strong because they knew that the People’s Liberation Army was nearby. There is an argument that the mass movement is always decisive, but it should not be forgotten that without the People’s War, the new situation, the alliance and the mass mobilisation would never have been possible.
Some people say that it is wrong to participate with reactionaries in government. In China, Mao proposed that a coalition government be formed with Chiang Kai Shek reactionaries. Although Mao then participated in 34 days’ negotiations to that end, the coalition government did not materialise in practice. In Nepal a similar proposal materialised. We did join a coalition government, but we have now walked out of it.
We think it was right to have participated. There are two reasons for this. We knew that the government would not resolve the problems of Nepal, dominated as it was and is by reactionaries.
But our first reason for participating was to develop international relations. Previously, we had been totally isolated as a ‘terrorist organisation’ and most of our leaders were being sought by Interpol.
The second reason is that we Maoists are not strong as compared to the reactionaries so we need allies if we are to capture power and then hang on to it. We need to use the contradictions between the reactionary forces so that they do not join forces against our revolution. Unity of Maoist forces is necessary, but we should also get support from non-Maoist anti-monarchists in Nepal seeking prosperity and liberty. We should strive to gain the support of others who are fighting imperialism, even social-democratic forces, if at least they support the fight against the monarchy.
It is also useful to have the support of China and India, which today have better mutual relations than they had in the past, although contradictions remain. Being in government, we were able to use those contradictions. India, for example, created chaos in Terai. We turned to China, which made a statement saying it would not tolerate outside intervention in Nepal, so the Indians backed off.
Quite recently a delegation visited Nepal from China, led by Professor Wan, the architect of Chinese foreign policy. He said that the US and India were intervening in different ways in Nepal, and that if this interference exceeded certain limits, China would not tolerate this. This position was not taken spontaneously by the Chinese but because we had been talking to them about this question, and asking why they did not support us overtly.
It is difficult for us, just as it was for the Russians in 1917. They at least had the support of a very strong working-class movement in Europe, especially in Germany. The tsar was engaged in an unpopular war. Lenin put forward the slogan of peace and bread, and this caught the popular imagination.
Dividing the enemy
You must use contradictions among the reactionaries. It is the aim of political tactics to create splits in the enemy ranks and to unite the revolutionary forces. We succeeded in this. We split the monarchy from the political parties. Now the monarchy in Nepal is almost gone.
Our present task is to isolate the Nepali Congress Party, and we are splitting it from the UML [Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist)]. We put forward two proposals in parliament: (1) that it should declare a republic, and (2) that future elections should be fully proportional. On these two issues, we split the Congress from the UML. Claiming to be a communist party, the latter cannot openly support the monarchy, and it was therefore afraid of voting for the monarchy, although it didn’t want to offend the Congress. On proportional elections, the UML also had to compromise, because otherwise the choice was between our proposal and their political exposure.
UML had to vote with us, and with the support of UML our proposals have been passed by a majority. This issue will now isolate the Nepali Congress.
An amendment of the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority. To ask the government to put forward a proposal in parliament, it is sufficient to have an ordinary majority. So we are trying to compel Congress to put forward the question for discussion. But the Congressites are in a dilemma. If they put this proposal forward for discussion, this is a problem for them because they voted against it. If they do not put it forward, they will be defying the majority and we can ask them to resign.
We are not worried about when the Nepali elections will be held. We will use the election as long as we can. Five years ago, the demand for a constituent assembly was our tactic alone, but now everybody has accepted it. The other parties used to refuse to discuss the issue with us on the grounds that Nepal had the ‘best constitution in the world’! But now they have accepted our demand and our current tactics are to use the elections to create splits in the enemy camp and build up the mass movement.
We will not give our arms to the enemy. We know the Nepali Congress will never accept our two proposals because it would be seen as a victory for Maoists. They are afraid of the elections because they know they will lose out to the Maoists. For reactionaries, elections are decisive and they cannot accept losing them. This is good because it will expose them in the eyes of the masses.
Our parliamentary majority will stand us in good stead. Our aim is to seize power – that’s the aim of the mass movement.
Victory for the Nepalese revolution would be a boost for the revolutionary movement everywhere, which is why US imperialism is trying to stop it. There is no great wealth to be looted by imperialism from Nepal, but politically it is very important for the US to defeat revolution, as it sets an example imperialism does not want followed, such as the revolutionary movements today building up in various parts of the world, including India.
Our fight against the US has to be carried out internationally. We want an alliance with all anti-imperialist forces, including those of Europe.
In reply to questions
There followed a question and answer session, during which Comrade Gaurav answered many questions. In particular, he made it clear that the reason the two armies are confined to barracks and cantonments is so that the military does not influence the outcome of the election in any way.
He went on to say that, contrary to agreement of equal treatment, the People’s Liberation Army was not paid for six months. The reactionaries hoped this would cause the PLA to disintegrate, since it lacked food. But its ranks did not desert, in spite of all the hardship. The government last week finally coughed up three months’ salary because the PLA threatened to leave the cantonments unless the troops were paid so that they could go to the masses who would maintain them.
Comrade Gaurav also appealed for support from British workers for the CPN(M)’s Martyrs Project, which is being set up to help the families affected by the death of a family member in the cause of People’s War and to establish a hospital in the name of the martyrs.