New Book Now Available

Dispatches From the People’s War in Nepal by Li Onesto

Revolutionary Worker #1261, December 12, 2004, posted at

"This unique, intimate look into the People’s War in Nepal provides invaluable background to the world’s most vigorous Maoist movement, and insight into the theory and practice underlying contemporary Maoism elsewhere in South Asia and globally. Based on the author’s reportage and interviews in guerrilla-controlled areas in 1999, Dispatches from the People’s War in Nepal helps to explain why, five years later, the insurgency has acquired control over most of the Nepali countryside."

—Gary Leupp, Professor of History at Tufts University and
Coordinator of the Asian Studies Program

"In her dispatches from the ongoing revolutionary war in Nepal, where she was the first, and longest-staying, foreign journalist to report from the Maoist-held areas, Li Onesto keeps up the committed, conscientious revolutionary journalism of John Reed, George Orwell, and Agnes Smedley. Building around the narratives of guerrilla soldiers and their families, of group leaders, farmers, local officials, teachers, and artists, she provides an intimate and sympathetic view of the early stages of the People’s War while giving a sense of the arduous nature of fighting a war in the Himalayas. Hers is probably the best, if not only, account of how the Maoists built their organization and movement, and of how they operate and govern."

Stephen Mikesell, author of Class, State and Struggle in Nepal: Writings 1989-1995

"This lively, exciting and enlightening presentation of the true portrait of the Maoist insurgency in Nepal will help people to understand the real state of affairs behind the `People’s War’ waged by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to liberate the Nepalese people from all kinds of exploitation and repression. The most important value of this book lies in its serious analysis of several human features of the Maoist Revolution with on-the-spot descriptive facility."

—Padma Ratna Tuladhar, independent left leader, senior human rights leader and
one of the facilitators in the peace talks between the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).


A Maoist revolution has been raging in Nepal since 1996. In 1999, Li Onesto became the first foreign journalist to travel deep into the guerrilla zones of this Himalayan country. Allowed unprecedented access, she interviewed political leaders, guerrilla fighters, villagers in areas under Maoist control, and relatives of those killed by government forces.

This book is the result of her journey. Illustrated with photographs, it provides an invaluable analysis of the social and economic conditions that have fueled the revolution and profiles some of the key people involved.

Millions in Nepal now live in areas under guerrilla control. Peasants are running grass-roots institutions, exercising what they call "people’s power." Li Onesto describes these transformations—the establishment of new governing committees and courts, the confiscation and re-division of land, new cultural and social practices, and the emergence of a new outlook.

Increasingly, the UK and U.S. have directly intervened to provide political and military support to the counter- insurgency efforts of the Nepalese regime. Onesto analyzes this in the context of the broader international situation and the "war on terrorism."

From Dispatches from the People’s War in Nepal:

The squad members file in and stack their rifles against the wall. Some of the young women guerrillas come and sit right next to me on the bed. They are wearing People’s Army uniforms—military green pants with many roomy pockets and matching jackets. The caps are sort of squared off on the top with a full brim—a big, bright red star declares from the front. For the next couple of hours members of this cultural squad tell me about themselves and their revolutionary passion. Almost all of them come from poor peasant families. The women are the first to speak and talk about the tremendous repression in their villages and how they came to join the People’s Army. At first the women guerrillas seem shy and hesitant. But as each one takes her turn to speak I notice strength and determination in their calm manner. They have a character about them common to teenage girls around the world—he way they sit next to each other, whisper a secret, or fix one another’s hair. But there is also a communal and disciplined way about them that comes from living and fighting together as a military unit.


The squad commander tells about actions they have taken to get land: "The party decided to target this Indian comprador and landowner. So at night, at 10:00 pm, seven squad members encircled his house, together with nearly 100 peasants. He was sleeping on the second floor and we called out, "We are the forest rangers." He woke up and came outside on the railing but didn’t come downstairs. Then we gave a real introduction, saying, "We are Maoist guerrillas with the peasants." We gave a speech exposing his bad role and four squad members went to seize his harvested crops. We broke down the wall of his storehouse and all the peasants went inside, shouting slogans. We distributed the crops and people took as much as they could carry. But even this was only part of all his wealth."


I can’t help thinking how these women seem to have been changed by the hope this revolution is giving them. I have been in Nepal long enough to see many other poor women, first in the city, then as we traveled through the countryside. My camera had captured images of vendors squatting beside piles of vegetables or tourist trinkets. I had given rupees to women begging in the streets with their kids. In the countryside, I crossed paths with peasant women hauling heavy loads up mountain trails. I saw the tired faces and discouraged eyes of women stoking fires as the sun began its next ascent. The women in this village are no doubt just as poor and experiencing as much, perhaps even more, hardship and poverty than the people I’ve seen outside this guerrilla zone. But the faces of these women have a very different expression. Here, the women seem confident, their body movements less heavy. They look happy and, at the same time, deadly serious. They have a vision of a better future that comes through in the edge to their words. Their hatred of the police and others who oppress them informs the hard look in their eyes. Their faith in this revolution gives them a physical confidence in how they move about.


Word has been going round the nearby villages that "the journalist from the United States" has arrived and spontaneously, villagers have been gathering outside to greet me. We decide to take a break so I can meet these people. We go outside and I see that over 100 people have gathered on a hillside nearby. The crowd is almost all women and children, and, as we walk up the hillside, I can feel their anticipation and intense curiosity. It is late in the day and the last rays of the sun are emanating from low on the horizon, but the many different colors of people’s clothes look bright even in the dusky light. When we get to the top of the hill the crowd erupts in applause. And when I take my camera out to capture the moment, everyone, even the smallest child, raises their fists in the air. The whole scene reminds me once again how politicized the people in these war zones are and how much they want the world to know about their struggle.


The cultural squads travel from village to village putting on programs. And they also work in the fields with the peasants, participate in people’s power committees, and carry out armed actions against the police and other enemies of the People’s War. They are constantly developing new songs, dances, and skits. I notice they all carry little dog-eared notebooks in which they write down songs and poems and they frequently pull them out to share with each other.


Dispatches from the People’s War in Nepal is available from:

Pluto Press
345 Archway Road, London N6 5AA and
839 Greene Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48106

Insight Press, Inc.
4064 N. Lincoln Avenue, #264
Chicago, IL 60618

Dispatches is available from and will soon be available in the United States from, Revolution Books and other bookstores and distributors.
Go to for updates on availability, news, reviews, and speaking engagements.