Nepal Maoists Open Strategic Offensive in People's War

Revolutionary Worker #1254, October 10, 2004, posted at

On August 31, 2004, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) announced the opening of a strategic offensive in the People's War.

This exciting news came right after Nepal's Prime Minister Deuba returned from a five-day trip to India where much of the discussion centered on stepping up Indian intervention in Nepal with the backing of the United States.

A press statement from the CPN (Maoist) said that the decision to launch the strategic offensive was made at a recent 10-day meeting of the party's Central Committee, led by Chairman Prachanda. The meeting was held "in a base area in the countryside, in a convention hall specially decorated with banners and canopies" protected by "a special security cordon of the People's Liberation Army" with "the full assistance of the broad masses of people."

The People's War in Nepal began in 1996 and from the very beginning, the CPN (Maoist) conceived of their revolution as a "protracted war" that goes through stages--from the strategic defensive, to strategic equilibrium, to the strategic offensive.

Mao's theory of "protracted people's war" recognized that in semi-colonial, semi-feudal countries like Nepal, the revolutionary forces start out weak and small compared to the government forces and that to engage in all- out military battles would only lead to getting crushed. But by avoiding decisive tests of strength and by waging guerrilla warfare, the revolutionary forces can defeat and weaken the government forces in smaller battles and through a protracted process, gain popular support, increase in strength and numbers, and extend their control. Building rural base areas and establishing military control and political authority in ever larger parts of the countryside allows the revolutionaries to surround the cities from the countryside and eventually seize country-wide political power.

After the initiation of armed struggle in Nepal, there was a relatively long period of the "strategic defensive"--where the revolutionary forces were weaker than the enemy and had to accumulate strength over a protracted period of time on the basis of guerrilla warfare. The military struggle then reached the stage of "strategic equilibrium"--where the two sides were relatively equal, neither was able to decisively destroy the other and the fighting was increasingly characterized by larger-scale mobile and positional warfare. At this point, the CPN (Maoist) analyzed that the entire society recognized the existence of two different states in the country, each with its own army and institutions.

The decision to enter the stage of a strategic offensive means that the Maoists in Nepal have now determined that they are able to make their immediate aim the decisive destruction of the enemy's armed forces, the seizure of power, and the establishment of the rule of the people throughout the country.

The Maoist forces in Nepal now control 80 percent of the countryside, where they have established base areas and new people's power. Revolutionary forms of government control much of the countryside--where new revolutionary institutions run daily life--from the distribution and farming of land, education, taxes, the building of roads and latrines and the running of people's courts. The fact that the government has lost control in the countryside is a widely recognized fact. And the strength of the Maoists has increasingly been felt in the cities as well.

For a week, beginning on August 7, Kathmandu was isolated by a military blockade called by the CPN (Maoist) and the United Revolutionary People's Council, the united front organization under the party's leadership that is the embryo of the future people's government. Strikes by the Maoist-led trade union also closed down the country's biggest and most hated companies. The strength of the Maoists was demonstrated by their ability to stop most vehicular traffic in and out of the nation's capital, which has a population of 1.5 million.

In the past, the PLA has enforced blockades on district capitals, especially in the western region, which has been a Maoist stronghold. But this was the first time such a blockade was imposed on the capital. The BBC reported, "They got a massive response and huge publicity without a single bomb or landmine on a highway." The World to Win News Servicereported: "Traffic into and out of the `capital was from several thousand vehicles a day to about 150 in the first days, and all of those were either military or under tight Royal Army escort. Certainly the Maoists could not issue an order so completely obeyed even by the biggest transport companies if they hadn't built up much military strength and badly weakened the armed forces and authority of the enemy. But the will they imposed on the government and companies was clearly that of an enormous and growing part of the people. That is the `secret' reason why the blockade succeeded even though there were no major military clashes."

This blockade and broad support for strikes called by the All Nepal Trade Union Federation (Revolutionary) were part of the process of weakening the reactionary regime and preparing people in the cities to rise up when the party judges the time ripe for urban insurrection in connection with successfully surrounding the cities from the countryside. During the blockade, other embargoes were carried out in nearby Eastern districts within the Kathmandu valley. And a contingent of the 5th Brigade of the People's Liberation Army took action against the Royal Army in the Sindhupalchok district, which is also not far from Kathmandu.

When the People's War started in 1996, they did not have a People's Army. They started out with small fighting groups of five or six people, armed with very primitive weapons--some single shot rifles and Khukuri knives. Over the first five years, the guerrillas built up their fighting capacity by carrying out guerrilla actions against police posts and hated local reactionaries. They were able to capture weapons from government forces and step by step build up larger fighting units--from squads to platoons, and then later brigades and companies. Successful military actions created freedom for the guerrillas to expand their influence and authority--and as police and reactionaries were run out of villages, a power vacuum was created, making it possible for the establishment of a new "people's power" and eventually base areas under the control of new revolutionary government institutions.

In 2001 the CPN (Maoist) announced the establishment of the People's Liberation Army, which reflected a leap from mainly guerrilla forces to a regular revolutionary army. Now, with the announcement of the strategic offensive, the party has announced that the People's Army will grow to three divisions. This means that in addition to the previously existing Eastern and Western divisions organised by the PLA under the party's leadership, there will be a PLA division in the country's central region--which is where the regime's capital is located and its economic, political and military power is focused.

In addition to the PLA's current three divisions, nine brigades and 29 battalions the party announced that it will raise a people's militia of 100,000 members organized into companies under the leadership of the PLA at the district and regional level. The party also announced a new plan "to provide defensive and offensive training to the broad masses of people to fight tunnel warfare against foreign intervention." In the wars against the U.S. in Korea and Vietnam, the use of tunnels to protect soldiers and civilians and spring surprise attacks was an important way of neutralizing enemy air power.

Documents from the Central Committee meeting warned of direct intervention by India, backed by the United States and the press statement pointed to the arrest of several leading comrades of the CPN (Maoist) in different cities in India as one sign of this.

When Nepal's Prime Minister Deuba went to New Delhi in September, along with a 66-member entourage, the People's War in Nepal was the main item on the agenda. The Indian government agreed to give the Nepali royal regime three light advanced helicopters, 20,000 INSAS rifles, 15,000 7.62 mm Self-Loading Rifles (SLR), 5,000 machine guns of various calibers, 800 trucks and jeeps, 100 Mine Protected Vehicles (MPVs), bullet-proof jackets, helmets, land mines, barbed wire and other war material. India will also provide military trainers and the idea of sending Indian troops to intervene directly in Nepal is being openly debated in the Indian press.

According to an official joint statement, the Nepali and Indian prime ministers also discussed the need for an extradition treaty between the two countries and agreed to finalize it in October. India is currently holding CPN(M) leaders Mohan Baydhya, C. P. Gajurel and other leaders and members. At this time it is illegal for India to extradite them to Nepal, but Indian authorities have already kidnapped other Nepali Maoists and handed them over to the royal regime.

The Kathmandu-based daily Himalayan News Service reported on September 10: "The U.S. Ambassador to Nepal, James F. Moriarty, today said his country was working closely with India to ensure that Maoists do not get outside help and are never able to take over the capital." Moriarty also said, "India has a big role to play in resolving the Maoist problem. Considering the military assistance and diplomatic help it has provided to Nepal, I conclude that Maoists will not be allowed to take over Kathmandu."

One commentary in South Asia Intelligence Reports , referring to the blockade on Kathmandu, said: "That week exposed the vulnerability of the Deuba Government and its capacity to govern. India sent strong signals to assure Kathmandu that it would not allow the Nepalese state to collapse."

Meanwhile, the threat of increased intervention by the United States is very real. Washington is supplying Nepal with 20,000 M-16s, as well as night-vision and communication equipment, and special-forces counterinsurgency training. U.S. aid to the Nepalese royal regime has almost doubled, from $22 million to $40 million this year. American soldiers have been conducting joint training exercises in Nepal with the Royal Nepalese Army. Earlier this year, the Himalayan Times quoted an American official who said that a U.S. Congressional delegation was in Nepal as part of a mission to collect information about the country's civil war and the whole of South Asia. And the U.S. has put the CPN (Maoist) on their "terrorist list"--laying the basis for even more intervention and the criminalization of international support for the struggle in Nepal.

A strategic offensive by the Maoists in Nepal will mean a big jump in the level of military battles, the danger of direct foreign intervention and a situation that could lead to a decisive struggle over who will hold political power in Nepal.

Articles from the A World to Win News Service were used in writing this article.