Excerpt from New Book: Dispatches from the People’s War in Nepal

Strategic Considerations in Nepal

by Li Onesto

Revolutionary Worker #1262, December 19, 2004, posted at rwor.org

The following excerpt is from the Afterword in Dispatches from the People’s War in Nepal by Li Onesto


Colin Powell’s visit to Kathmandu came four months after September 11 and two months after King Gyanendra declared a State of Emergency. This was the first high-level diplomatic trip by a US official to Nepal in 30 years and signaled mounting concern, necessity, and willingness by the US to provide not only political but also military support to crush the People’s War.

The US doesn’t have lots of investments or sweatshops in Nepal and there aren’t any significant oilfields in this small Himalayan country. So what’s behind this high-level concern? Why is the US providing the Nepalese army with millions of dollars, thousands of weapons, and military advisers and trainers? Why has the US, as a July 1, 2003 article in the Kathmandu Post revealed, been "quietly securing close military and political ties with Nepal"?

Since September 11, the US "war against terrorism" and the aims and ambitions of the US crusade to attain unrivaled world hegemony have been setting the terms for much of international relations, including how the US (and other powers) look at their necessity and freedom to intervene in Nepal.

As part of the US quest for world domination, the "war on terrorism" serves as an all-purpose umbrella under which numerous interventions are being justified. The political and ideological program of the Maoists in Nepal clearly has nothing in common with the reactionary politics and religious fundamentalism of groups like al-Qaeda. But this hasn’t stopped the US from using the pretext of "combating terror" to justify military action against any and all insurgencies which threaten U.S. interests—including genuine revolutions aimed at overthrowing oppressive governments.

The US, Britain, and other imperialist powers have provided the Nepalese regime with political and military support exactly because they know that a Maoist victory would reverberate throughout the Indian subcontinent and the world. This is a region of extreme instability where a Maoist "regime change" in Nepal could interact in unpredictable ways with the hostility between Pakistan and India, the conflict in Kashmir, relations between India and China, and other guerrilla insurgencies in the region, especially those in India.

The often antagonistic relationship between India and China is certainly a factor in this developing scenario. Nepal is strategically situated between the Tibetan region of China and the northern border of India. Because of this, both of these major powers view Nepal as a kind of "buffer," over which each has jockeyed for influence and power as a way of challenging and defending against the other.

India would be seriously threatened by a government in Kathmandu run by Maoists (who have already stated that one of the key goals of their revolution is to end Indian domination). And the New Delhi government worries that China would try to take advantage of any kind of upheaval in Nepal to strengthen its hand against India and in the whole region.

The Maoists in Nepal denounce the current Chinese regime for overthrowing and dismantling socialism after Mao’s death. The Chinese government has made clear that it supports the efforts to crush the insurgency, but China would be extremely concerned if India invaded Nepal to prevent the Maoists from seizing power. This would upset the long-standing and fragile balance of power on the China/India border, where serious warfare has broken out before and possibly provoke renewed hostility between these two major powers.

In terms of the US and its geostrategic stakes in Nepal, the question is: Can the US in its quest to achieve unprecedented global hegemony allow a successful Maoist guerrilla war in Nepal?

In a radio interview at the end of 2003, Michael Malinowski, the US ambassador to Nepal, revealed something about how the US views this question.16 He said:

"It’s a troubled country. It’s very disturbing. We’re concerned about it. One may ask why does the United States care, it’s 8,000 miles away? I would say there’s a number of reasons. One on the ideological plane we want democracy to succeed. We don’t want to see democracy fail. We don’t want to see democracy fail by a group, a small group that is unwilling to contest its ideas in the electoral process or the parliamentary process. But instead have decided to go the way of the gun, use terrorism, terrorist acts to get their will... There’s real reasons why people have picked up the gun here. They’re impoverished. There’s a lack of access to higher levers of education. There’s corruption. There’s mismanagement. There’s bad government. All of that. But again I would argue that Maoism is not the way to solve that."

Later Malinowski spoke to the international dimension of the US concerns, saying that he sees the need for "A clear message from every outside nation or people who care about Nepal—a clear message to the Maoists that the world will not put up with this type of behavior and indiscriminate use of terror."

Malinowski’s statements deliver both a message and threat: this Maoist revolution is "not the solution’ and ’will not be tolerated."

While Malinowski tars the Maoists with the "terrorist" brush, he can’t offer any real evidence to justify the charge. In fact, he is forced to admit that the Maoists have real support because of the oppressive conditions in Nepal—and that this is the basis for the military and political strength of the Maoists.

On one level, it seems almost counterintuitive that an operative of the Bush administration would be conceding that Maoist guerrillas have a base among the people and that poverty, deep inequalities, and a corrupt and bad government are fueling the revolution. While Malinowski calls the Maoists "terrorists" he cannot simply write them off as "terrorists" and has to acknowledge that they are actually seen by millions of people as a real alternative to the current order. Malinowski’s arguments tell you something about the nature of this insurgency—that this is not an uprising of isolated rebels, but a revolution with mass, popular support that propounds a viable program for how to run Nepal and is contending for power.

The US fears that a Maoist victory in Nepal would, to use a phrase from Mao, "ignite a prairie fire." Intelligence reports assessing the impact of the insurgency in Nepal point to growing Maoist guerrilla warfare in India.17 And the Naxalbari area, where Maoist armed struggle began in India in the 1960s, is located right across Nepal’s eastern border.

In June 2002, at the request of nine Indian states where Maoists are waging armed struggle—Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal - India created a special police force to crack down on Maoist guerrillas.18 Official Indian sources have said that any negotiated deal in Nepal that produces a government with "unreformed" revolutionary Maoists sharing power would have serious security consequences for India and its war against Indian Maoists.19


The political and geographic connections and interrelationships between the situation in Nepal and India (and the whole region) also have huge implications for and present real challenges to the Maoists if they do seize power in Nepal.

Militarily, a new revolutionary government would immediately face the problem of being surrounded by unfriendly governments and the possibility of military invasion—by India, UN "peacekeeping troops" or even the United States.

Economically, as an underdeveloped country with a long history of dependency on India and other foreign countries, and an almost complete lack of industry, the new Nepal would immediately face enormous challenges in meeting people’s basic needs and developing an economy that does not create relations of foreign dependency and exploitation.

Politically, the Maoists would be attempting to build a new socialist society surrounded by hostile states, in a world where "communism has been declared dead," and in which there are tremendous prejudices against socialist states led by communist parties. During the Chinese revolution Mao had to deal with what he called "bourgeois democrats becoming capitalist roaders"— that is, those within the Communist Party itself who united with the anti-feudal, democratic aims of the revolution but then became proponents of building a capitalist, not socialist, society. This would certainly be a phenomenon in Nepal, the outlines of which can already been seen in the outlook of various political parties that are proponents of bourgeois democracy, not socialism, but who could unite with the Maoists to oppose the monarchy.

Bob Avakian sheds valuable light on this complex relationship between seizing power in one country and promoting the advance of revolutions elsewhere. He says:

"Socialist countries have so far emerged and for a certain historical period are very likely to emerge one or a few at a time. So, in grand strategic terms socialist countries and, more broadly, the international proletariat and the international communist movement will be faced with a situation where it is necessary to change the world alignment of forces or face the prospect of socialist countries going under after a certain point. This doesn’t mean there is some sort of mechanical mathematical or arithmetic equation where if you don’t get more and more of the world in a given period of time, then the socialist country, or countries, that exist at the time (if there are any socialist counties right then) will inevitably go under. But there is a contradiction when a socialist country is in a situation of being encircled; and that also interacts with the internal contradictions within the socialist society. And, at a certain point, if further advances aren’t made in the proletarian revolution worldwide, these things will turn to their opposites and the conditions will become more favorable for capitalist restoration within the socialist country. This doesn’t mean capitalist restoration automatically kicks in after a certain point, or that it will automatically occur at all. But it means that things will begin to turn into their opposites and the conditions for capitalist restoration will become more favorable. So, in that dialectical materialist sense, it’s one way or the other: make further advances and breakthroughs in the world revolution or be thrown back, temporarily."20

Recognizing the greater regional and world significance of the People’s War in Nepal also informs the overall strategy of the CPN (Maoist)—in how it sees the path to seizing power and in how it sees consolidating state power. The Party leaders very consciously look at their revolution as "part of the world revolution" and they look at the success of a revolution in Nepal as providing both an example and a "base area" for further Maoist revolutions.21 This has huge implications for the armed struggles being waged by Maoists in India and in turn reacts back on the struggle in Nepal. When I interviewed Prachanda he emphasized the importance of the struggle in India to the success or failure of the Nepalese revolution—pointing to the positive factor of a reinforcing synergy between Nepalese Maoists living in India, the political forces in India that would oppose intervention in Nepal, and the overall progress of Maoist revolution in India.22

The CPN (Maoist) emphasizes its "proletarian internationalism" and has given this organizational expression through its participation in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM), whose participants include Maoist parties and organizations from around the world. The CPN (Maoist) also makes no secret of the fact that it has fraternal relations with Maoist organizations throughout the Indian subcontinent. For example, in June 2001, the CPN (Maoist) helped form CCOMPOSA (Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia), which is made up of ten parties, including ones from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and India. CCOMPOSA’s stated purpose is to "unify and coordinate the activities of the Maoist parties and organizations in South Asia to spread protracted people’s war in the region." Maoist parties in India have clearly been encouraged and emboldened by the success of the Maoists in Nepal. A press statement announcing the formation of CCOMPOSA emphasized how the struggle in Nepal is "changing the political geography and revolutionary dynamics of South Asia."23

All this underscores the strategic significance and political importance of the Nepalese revolution—and the fact that the US and other imperialist powers cannot (and will not) ignore the real threat of a Maoist victory in Nepal. This also poses critical questions if the revolution does come to power in Nepal—what this could spark in neighboring countries, how the US, UK, India, and other countries would respond, and what kind of support would have to be built in the world for a new Maoist government in Nepal to survive the pressures and attacks of surrounding states and America’s new imperial order. This would be a real challenge, not just for the revolutionaries in Nepal but for all who stand against injustice and oppression.


16Worldview, Chicago Public Radio, WBEZ, Jerome McDonnell interview with Michael Malinowski, November 28, 2003, Chicago.

17 See, for example, "Prairie Fire from Nepal" by B. Raman, former Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications, 23 July 2001 and "Maoist Incursions across Open Borders" by P.G. Rajamohan in South Asia Intelligence Review , Volume 2, No. 22, December 15, 2003, and "MCC and Maoists: Expanding Naxal Violence in Bihar" by Sanjay K. Jha and other articles on the Institute for Conflict Management website.

18Kathmandu Post, June 12, 2002.

19 Rita Manchanda, "’War for Peace’ Approach Promises More Bloodshed" (InterPress Service, December 26, 2002).

20 Bob Avakian, "Two Humps in the World Revolution: Putting the Enemy on the Run," Revolutionary Worker, January 18, 1998.

21 See "International Communist Movement and Its Historical Lessons," Document of the Second National Conference of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), reprinted in A World to Win #27, 2001 and Himalayan Thunder , the quarterly bulletin of the CPN (Maoist), May 2001. This document from the CPN (Maoist) states: "Due to the uniqueness of the economic, political, cultural and geographical conditions and the unchallenged hold of Indian monopoly capitalism, it will be very difficult for any single country of this region to successfully complete the new national-democratic revolution and; even if it succeeds following the distinct contradictions, it will be almost impossible for it to survive. The revolutionaries need to seriously concentrate on the fact that a particular country, or a particular territory of a country, shall be liberated through the force of the common and joint struggle of the people of this region following the unequal stage of development, and that it can play only a particular role of base area for the revolution in the whole region."

22 Li Onesto, "Red Flag Flying on the Roof of the World" (interview with Comrade Prachanda), Revolutionary Worker , February 20, 2000.

23 Press statement of the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA), 1 July 2001, published in People’s March (Vol. 2, No. 9, September 2001). Available on the web at www.peoplesmarch.com