Special to the RW
Red Flag Flying on the Roof of the World
Inside the Revolution in Nepal:
Interview with Comrade Prachanda
RW reporter Li Onesto interviews Comrade Prachanda, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)
Revolutionary Worker #1043, February 20, 2000
"We are fully conscious that this war to break the shackles of thousands of years of slavery and to establish a New Democratic state will be quite uphill, full of twists and turns and of a protracted nature. But this and this alone is the path of people<$>s liberation and a great and bright future.
From the leaflet distributed by the CPN (Maoist),
in hundreds of thousands of copies, all over Nepal
on February 13, 1996
Four years ago, on February 13, 1996, a new peoples war was initiated in Nepal under the leadership of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). In the first two weeks, almost 5,000 actions were carried out throughout the country including armed assaults on police stations in rural districts, confiscation of property from oppressive landlords, and punishment of local tyrants. This was truly an inspiring and significant development in the world and for the international proletariat. As in other Third World countries, the revolutionaries in Nepal must confront three mountains to achieve liberation: Their goals are to overthrow the bureaucrat-capitalist class and state system, which are dependent on and serve imperialism; uproot semi-feudalism; and drive out imperialism. To do this, the CPN (Maoist) is applying Maos strategy of a protracted peoples war establishing base areas in the countryside and aiming to surround the cities, seize nationwide power, and establish a new democratic republic as a step toward building a new socialist society. Their struggle is part of the world proletarian revolution. For the last four years, the government of Nepal has carried out vicious counter-revolutionary campaigns against the Peoples War over 1,000 people have already been killed and many more have been arrested, jailed, and tortured. But in the face of this, the revolution has continued to advance and grow. The Peoples War in Nepal has advanced from primitive fighter groups to disciplined and trained squads and platoons. The peoples army has established guerrilla zones and is sinking deep roots among the people. Women continue to play a major role as fighters in the peoples army. And in areas where the Peoples War is the strongest like the Rolpa and Rukum districts in the West local reactionaries have run away and the police stay away, afraid to patrol. Elected in May 1999, the government of Krishna Prasad Bhattarai has been unstable and fraught with in-fighting over how to deal with the insurgency. In the spring of 1999, RW reporter Li Onesto traveled throughout Nepal with the peoples army meeting and talking with party leaders, guerrillas, activists in mass organizations and villagers. At that time, the CPN (Maoist) was in the process of leading the people to carry out their fourth military plan, aimed at establishing base areas and exercising new peoples power. Military actions by the guerrillas were becoming larger and more sophisticated. The following interview with Comrade Prachanda, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), was conducted during Li Onestos trip.
Li Onesto, Revolutionary Worker: There are revolutionary people all over the world who want to hear about the People's War in Nepal. So it would be of great interest if you could give a basic picture of the objective situation and what the material basis in Nepal is for initiating People's War. Why does the party think it is possible to wage protracted People's War, to organize the masses through armed struggle? Why is this the correct strategy given the situation in Nepal? And why does the party feel it is possible to win with this strategy?
Comrade Prachanda: First of all, I want to explain this question in ideological terms. Nepal is a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country. And MLM (Marxism-Leninism-Maoism) says that in oppressed countries like this, semi-feudal and semi-colonial countries, in general, a revolutionary objective situation prevails. This is the ideological basis from where we started to study the concrete situation, because the main thing is ideological clarity. And through the course of class struggle, mass movements, mass struggle, and mainly the ideological struggle inside the communist movement, we came to the conclusion that a situation prevails for initiating the People's War.
We see that Nepal is a small and poor country. More than 85 percent of the population lives in the rural areas, and the people are very poor-they are very oppressed. The feudal relations-the feudal forms of exploitation-are very severe in the rural areas. Industrial development is very poor, and the kinds of industrial bases that are there are all in the hands of a comprador bourgeois class-mainly the Indian expansionist bourgeoisie. Therefore, there are sharp class distinctions, and people have been struggling for reforms, for independence, and for the livelihood of the people, for a long time. There has been continuous mass struggle. But due to the lack of revolutionary leadership, due to revisionism in the communist movement, due to a crisis of leadership: every time when there has been mass struggle, this leadership has been able to confuse the masses, to make compromises with the ruling classes and to get some concessions for this revisionist group.
I want to mention that in 1815 there was a big struggle with British India. Nepalese people fought heroically against British India but ultimately they did not succeed-they failed. This was armed struggle, this war with British India, and people participated in this war in different ways. Different kinds of guerrilla warfare were used. And, in that war, the British ruling class saw that the Nepalese people were very heroic and brave-and that they fought heroically against British India. For more than one year they fought and fought, and in many places they defeated the British army. Hundreds and hundreds of masses, including women and old men, all fought in that war. But the Nepalese ruling class, mainly the monarchy, the king, surrendered to India.
There was a negotiation in Sugali, and they made a compromise. And after that, more Nepalese territory was taken by India. Before this, geographically, Nepal was more or less three times larger. But all this land was taken by India with the Sugali Treaty. From that very point Nepal became a semi-colonial country, and when the British left India, Nepal became a semi-colony of Indian expansionism. After that, there came the Rana government clique, and the great comrade Karl Marx called this Jang Bahadur Rana a British puppet and dog. People suffered very much from different kinds of oppression and exploitation, and from that point, Nepal changed to a semi-feudal country.
In 1949 when the Nepalese Communist Party was established, it was a great and far-reaching historical event. That party was established when the great Chinese revolution had been won and socialism was developing in the USSR.
RW: Was the victory of the Chinese revolution a big factor in the establishment of the Communist Party in Nepal?
Prachanda: Yes, a very big factor. And there was also, at the time, a very big armed struggle of the peasants in India. This was the surrounding larger revolutionary situation at the time when the Communist Party in Nepal was established. The party started to work among the basic peasant masses, and for three or four years, there was a big peasant movement-a kind of revolutionary upsurge. But, at the same time, the leadership of the party changed and took a revisionist stand. And the leadership of the movement, the general secretary at the time, appealed to the king, saying we will do all our work peacefully, therefore please regard our party like this. And the party leadership totally went revisionist. After that there were so many mass struggles, mass movements. But every time, this revisionist clique confused people, made compromises with the ruling class, and betrayed the masses. Every time they betrayed the masses. And at the same time there was also ideological struggle going on inside the movement.
Then, when the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was initiated in China under the leadership of great comrade Mao, it directly impacted on the revolution in Nepal. There were so many materials from the Chinese Cultural Revolution that came to Nepal. This Cultural Revolution inspired mainly the younger generation of communists and the masses. And at the same time young people in the communist movement were also inspired by the Naxalite Movement in India. This inspired young people in the Jhapa District and provoked a kind of rebellion against the revisionist leadership; and there was a process of reconstitution of the party. At the same time the Fourth Party Congress was held, and it also put the question of armed struggle on the agenda. But a fully developed political line was still not clear-of how to reorganize a new kind of party and explain to the masses the need to rebel. There was a big ideological and political debate for 10 years after the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and all our leadership team is a product of that ideological struggle.
And at the same time, inside our party, there was a big two-line struggle, first with this Lama clique, because a rightist tendency was there. We fought vigorously with that line. Later on we fought with this Dumdum line, M.B. Singh's line, because it was eclecticism and rightism and very much muddle-headed. Individually M.B. Singh was established as a leader, but his line was totally revisionist, and it was so confusing, covered with eclectic words. We fought with that line, and, when we fought with that line, we developed the correct line which is now leading the people and the People's War. We came to an understanding from that struggle with Dumdum (M.B. Singh), and we defined our ideology as Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
RW: What year is this now you're talking about?
Prachanda: It was 1986, I think, when we finalized Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as our ideology. At the time, only the Communist Party of Peru had said this, and we had some documents from the PCP. But on that question, already for four or five years, there had been some discussion about: Why Mao Tsetung Thought? Why not Maoism? That kind of discussion had been going on inside our party. We had a debate for one year to change this terminology and then the whole party adopted Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as our ideology. It was not only a change of terminology, it was our understanding of Mao's contribution. We also defined the People's War and our military line, our political line. And this is our ideological, political, subjective basis. At the same time, class struggle was developing, and, in the circumstances of that class struggle and the two-line struggle, we were able to see the objective and subjective situation to initiate the People's War.
On your question about the relationship between objective and subjective factors, I want to say that in oppressed countries, according to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, a revolutionary objective situation generally prevails in one or another part of the country. The developing process of this country is uneven. Therefore, in any part of the country there is the possibility of initiating armed struggle and then sustaining and developing the struggle. In general, as a whole, you can say that an objective revolutionary situation prevails. In oppressed countries, the question is the subjective preparation-the main question, the principal factor is subjective. And subjective means the communist party, the revolutionary communist party, armed with Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. We can also say, in this way, that the main question in these types of countries is how to fight against revisionism and build a new type of party armed with MLM. This is the principal question in these countries.
In imperialist countries this is not the case. In the imperialist countries, the principal question is not the subjective factor. The principal factor deciding tactics and line is objective. Objectively the imperialist countries suck the blood of the oppressed countries and control them. Therefore, the main question for revolutionaries in those imperialist countries is to continuously expose the whole system and build the party and make continuous preparation and consciously try to make the objective situation a revolutionary one-and when a revolutionary objective situation develops, at that time, deal a big blow. We think this kind of line should be applied there.
But the strategy is different in semi-feudal, semi-colonial countries like Nepal, where more than 80 to 85 percent of the population live in the rural areas, whose developing process is uneven, where the modern workers, proletarian workers, are very limited. Some people say a revolutionary objective situation does not prevail in these types of countries. Just like in our country, the revisionists always say the objective situation is not there, and they also say the subjective situation is not there to start the armed struggle. They always say this, and we condemn this line. This is not a fact. In these types of countries the question is subjective preparation. It was in this way that we looked at the conditions for initiating People's War.
And at the time of initiation, we tried to figure out the whole history of Nepal. What is the cultural standard, the cultural level of the masses, what are the economic conditions, what are the social relations, what are the forces, what is the class analysis? We did all these things before this last final preparation. And at that time we found some specific characteristics of the situation in Nepal. Although Nepal is a small country, we think, in another sense it is not a small country. Geographically when you look at the whole country of India you can travel in one or two days to every part and corner. But in Nepal you have to walk up and down for many days-I know you understand this. It is more remote than America.
RW: Yes, I have some direct experience with this!
Prachanda: Therefore, while Nepal is a small country, the mountainous region is very favorable for guerrilla warfare, for People's War. And we also saw that because there has been a centralized reactionary government for more than 200 years there has also been a tendency for the masses to resist throughout all of Nepal. The centralized government has its guns and control everywhere-controlled from Kathmandu. And in the long process of resistance and struggle, the Nepalese masses have developed a kind of situation where-from east to west, from north to south-everywhere there is mass, class struggle. So we saw a situation in which if we call for a program of resistance, of mass movement, then all of Nepal will engage in that movement.
We also looked at the fact that we are surrounded on three sides by this big Indian country. On the east, the west, the south, there is India. And on the north side, there is China. On the north side it is very difficult to come and go. The Himalayan Range is there. There are some places where people can go to and from Tibet, but in general it is not like it is with India. We also analyzed this situation.
We also found that Nepal is again a big country because there are so many nationalities. The population is only 20 million, but there are, more or less, 20 to 25 different oppressed nationalities. There are different languages, there are different religions. And this is also a particularity of the Nepalese situation. We studied all these questions and how to solve the nationality question. We fundamentally depart from all the revisionist and bourgeois parties. We uphold the right of self-determination for the oppressed nationalities, and, for now, in our concrete situation, we say that autonomy should be the program. We express this and explain this as a specific situation in our movement.
And in the Terai region-again you can say Nepal is "big" because you can see that in the southern part from east to west there is plains land, Terai land, which is more or less 300 meters from sea level. It is a big plain, a big agrarian area, with big forests. There is also the mountainous region, where there are big mountains-this is where you traveled, so you know exactly about this. And the majority of the population live in these mountainous areas and the big Himalayan Range, which is very cold. In this way you can also say Nepal is a big country, not a small country. We studied these geographical conditions.
And we also studied our subjective organizational situation. We were in the Eastern Region, we were in the Central and Middle Region, and we were also in the Western Region. The West is historically, geographically, and culturally the basin of the revolution. It is the main point for the revolution-the people here are more oppressed by the ruling classes, and the government in Kathmandu is very far from there.
RW: What is the material basis for the revolution being more advanced in the West? Is the question of the oppressed nationalities a big factor?
Prachanda: Yes, and one thing is that economically the ruling class always neglects the development of the West.
Prachanda: Because they think that to invest there will not be profitable. This is one factor we can see. And the other is that there are mainly oppressed nationalities there in the West and the ruling class is hegemonistic, chauvinistic-upper caste chauvinistic. Therefore they neglect and oppress these nationalities.
And the other thing is that in the time of making this country, before 1800, in the last part of the 18th century, at that time, this part of the country was not totally captured by the central government. There was a kind of compromise. With the Gorkha empire, this part of the country was captured later on. First they took the east side, later on they went on the west side. The main point here is not first or later. The main point is that those areas were not totally captured. The local authorities had some power and the central authorities had some power. In this way these areas had some kind of autonomy at that time.
So the masses of the Western Region were not so much in the control of the ruling government. And they did not care what the government did and didn't do. This is another historical fact about the West. And in western Nepal there are the Mongolian ethnic groups-you saw how all our comrades there look Chinese. These nationalities are so sincere and such brave fighters-historically they have had this kind of culture. And upper caste chauvinism and feudal ties do not prevail in these nationalities.
RW: You're saying feudal traditions are weaker among these oppressed nationalities?
Prachanda: Yes, weaker. Really. When you went to the Middle Region or the Eastern Region you saw that feudal traditions are very strong.
RW: But when I was in Rolpa and Rukum I didn't see any temples.
Prachanda: Yes, in Rolpa and Rukum there are not too many temples, and in the family background in these nationalities, there is a kind of democracy, a primitive democracy. Even male domination in these places is weaker-it is not like in the dominating castes. And at the same time, our party has a long history of working in these areas, like in Thabang and Rolpa.
RW: And the revisionists in these areas are weaker?
Prachanda: Very weak. And there has been a continuation of consistent revolutionary leadership there. The revisionist influence in that area has always been weak, and the revolutionary tendency has prevailed. There are all these factors. Geographically, there are no transportation facilities, there is no electricity, and communication is also very weak for the ruling classes. All these factors led us to the conclusion that the West is the main region for the People's War. But we also saw that we cannot initiate the People's War only in the western part, because the ruling class is very powerful. They have a powerful army, powerful communication system, and all these things. Therefore if we initiated armed struggle only in the western part, then the government would centralize all their forces and crush us.
Subjectively we also saw a favorable situation for developing mass movements all over the country. And we had organization throughout the whole country. Therefore we finalized that we should initiate People's War from different parts of the country. We should centralize in mainly three areas-East, Middle, West-and the capital. Cities should also be another point, not for armed clashes, but for propaganda and such things. And one other area where we should concentrate work is in India, because more than seven million Nepalese live in India. Therefore India should be the other point where we should make efforts to resist the ruling classes. In this way we made a plan. These are the specificities we saw in Nepal. We did not see the exact same situation and plan for initiating the armed struggle as in the Philippines, Peru, Turkey, and other countries where there is some kind of People's War. There are more similarities with the PCP in Peru, but not exactly. They initiated from one election booth, they attacked one election booth. But we initiated from different parts of the country-with thousands of actions in the first plan. When we studied in detail the historical, geographical, and cultural situation in Nepal, we came to the conclusion that we should initiate the People's War in this way.
More than 72 percent of the Nepalese people live below the poverty line. This is a grave situation. We have always explained to the people that nothing can be achieved from this multi-party system-that it is fake, it is imperialist, it is feudal. Therefore after three, four years, the masses saw that, "Yeah, what the Maoists have been saying is really correct." These kinds of sentiments prevailed. Just before the initiation we organized so many big mass demonstrations and mass meetings. Thousands and thousands of masses participated. We had already declared we are going to initiate the People's War. But the ruling class didn't believe it and thought, "These people are talking, only talking."
RW: In some of your writings you've talked about how the party had to make a big rupture-ideologically, politically and militarily-in order to initiate the People's War. This is a very big question for parties around the world, and it is a dividing line between revisionism and MLM-the question of actually carrying out the necessary ideological, political and organizational changes in the party, to initiate the armed struggle. So could you talk about the kind of ruptures your party had to make to initiate the People's War?
Prachanda: These are very serious, important questions you have raised. The question of rupture is a question of making a breakthrough. First of all there is the question of understanding our ideology, which means Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. How does Maoism explain or define this rupture, this developing process? Some people see a process of evolution, a process of continuous development, an evolutionary process. But Marxism-Leninism-Maoism teaches that this is not the case, this is not the scientific case, scientific analysis. The real process of development is breaking with continuation and making a rupture. Everything in nature, in human history and society, in human thinking-the process of development-is the process of breaking with continuation. We came to grasp this question very seriously before the initiation.
RW: You're talking about making a leap.
Prachanda: Yes, making a leap. At one point in our party, for every comrade, on the lip of every comrade was the question of leap, leap-we have to make a leap. We made this question of making a leap very sharp, that we have to make the leap. The revisionist parties and revisionist leaders always teach the people the question of reform, reform, reform. And reform is reformism, is revisionism. But the question of making leaps is revolutionary.
We condemn all the revisionist cliques as vulgar evolutionarism. We are revolutionary, and revolution means breaking with continuation and the question of making leaps. Before the initiation, we had a big debate on these questions. When we changed our terminology from "Marxism-Leninism-Mao Thought" to "Marxism-Leninism-Maoism," at that point, we had a big debate inside the party on this question of leap. And we came to an understanding. Mao said in the theory of knowledge that there is a two-stage theory-the stage of sense or perception and the stage of logical conclusion. We tried to educate the whole party in Mao's theory of knowledge, this two-stage theory. And this gave us a new understanding of MLM. Before that, there was some kind of thinking that MLM meant different kinds of reforms and gradualism. But when we defined this question in this new way, then new feelings, new confidence, a new situation developed inside the party. There was a struggle with rightist tendencies at that time, and we fought, mainly with rightists, revisionism.
Then, when the plan for initiation was drawn up, there was another debate over questions of how to initiate People's War. Our party was so much influenced by rightist tendencies. At the same time, we had indirectly participated in the elections, and we had 11 members in the parliament, nine in the lower house and two in the upper house. And that also had a big influence inside our party circles-the rightist influence was there. That was a big challenge for our party, how to make a leap. The party was so much encircled by rightist revisionism, petty bourgeois tendencies, all these things. And many people were working openly. Although I want to mention and give more stress to the fact that our main leadership team was not working openly at that time. There were our MPs (members in the parliament) who were public. But our main PBMs (polit-bureau members) and comrades and main regional leaders and main district leaders were not open, they were underground. There was parliamentary work but the main party organizational mechanism was underground at that time-you should note this.
So in making the plan for initiation there was great debate over how to go to the armed struggle because many people were influenced by "peaceful" struggle, work in the parliament, rightist and petty bourgeois feelings, and a long tradition of the reformist movement. Then we said that the only process must be a big push, big leap. Not gradual change. There was some thinking from different people in the party that first we should do some actions without declaring the People's War, and then see what happens. This kind of thinking was also there among some people. And we discussed, is this the process? And we said-no, this is not revolutionary, this is also reformism. It is a conspiratorial approach. And armed struggle is not a conspiracy, People's War is not a conspiracy-it is open, politically open and declared openly. This conspiracy theory will not work, and it is also not revolutionary. Doing one action then saying, "OK, let's see what will happen." Then doing another action... No, nothing will work like this.
There was also some thinking that we could start armed struggle in different parts of the country but not say we had initiated the war-and then later on, when we see how the situation develops, we could declare People's War. This kind of logic was also there. And some sections wanted to initiate the war but wanted to still participate in the parliamentary system in an independent way. They argued that some people should still be in the parliament, that it would "help." Later, some of these types of people didn't exactly degenerate but politically retreated after the initiation. They had the logic that, "OK, we will initiate People's War, but in the main region, in Rolpa, Rukum, four MPs should be in parliament because we can win there and this will give strength to the People's War." That kind of logic was also there. And we condemned all this logic and, said, no, this is not Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
RW: This period you're talking about is 1995, the year of preparation before the initiation?
Prachanda: Yes, mainly 1995. We condemned all this logic, saying this is not Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, this is not according to the objective and subjective situation of Nepal. Our view was, we should declare freely and frankly that we have initiated the People's War and that this is the only alternative left for the people, for their emancipation, for their independence from the brutal imperialists. We should distribute leaflets all over the country. We should put posters up all over the country. We should carry out actions all over the country. And we should launch a great debate all over the country. There was some doubt about this line, some thinking that it may be "ultra left" or "adventuristic." That kind of doubt was there. Such people did not openly voice that line, but only doubted. When there was a discussion they unanimously agreed, but there were these tendencies.
Only one month after the initiation there was a big national debate about the question of People's War. Every newspaper, every radio, everybody in the country was asking: what is this People's War, what is this Maoist party? In one push, the party was established in a big and national way and it was in the center of debate-after only one month.
We had a polit-bureau meeting, and we synthesized the experience of this one month. It was a big transformation process for the whole party-for the whole of our mass organization-because it was not a gradual change. It was a big question of life-and-death struggle and everything was shaken. We concluded that this process of initiation had been correct, that the party's first plan of initiation had proven to be correct and really shaken the country. Then the enemy started to massacre the people. Arresting, raping, killing, looting-they started all these things. And then we drew up the Second Plan, immediately, one month after initiation.
RW: Before you go on to talk about the Second Plan, in terms of all the ideological struggle that went on during the period of preparation, what role did the international communist movement play?
Prachanda: Yes, really, I have to mention this. In the whole process of this final preparation...there was consistent international involvement. First and foremost, there was the RIM Committee (Revolutionary Internationalist Movement). There was important ideological and political exchange. From the RIM Committee, we got the experience of the PCP (Communist Party of Peru), the two-line struggle there, and also the experience in Turkey, the experience in Iran, and the experience in the Philippines. We learned from the experience in Bangladesh and from some experience in Sri Lanka. And there was a South Asian conference that we participated in. At the same time we were also having direct and continuous debate with the Indian communists, mainly the People's War (PW) and Maoist Communist Center (MCC) groups. And this helped in one way or another. It helped us to understand the whole process of People's War.
Therefore, what I want to say here is that one of the specific things about our People's War, the initiation of our People's War, is that there was international involvement right from the beginning. Right from the time of preparation, up to the time of initiation, and after the initiation, there was international involvement. Help, debate and discussion was there. It was a big benefit for us. It was a big help for the Nepalese masses. Theoretically we are clear, and every time we insist, that the Nepalese revolution is part of the world revolution and the Nepalese people's army is a detachment of the whole international proletarian army. This is clear. But during preparation for the initiation and after the initiation we came to understand this, not only in a theoretical sense, but came to see the practical implications of this proletarian internationalism, what practical role it played. We made the point to the RIM Committee that when the People's War in Nepal faces setbacks, then it will not only be a question for the CPN (Maoist), but will directly be a question for the RIM as a whole.
People's War, Maoist Communist Center and others in the revolutionary struggle in India have been involved in this process in one way or another. We understood right from the beginning that we should try to involve more and more sections of revolutionary masses in the process of our initiation. Therefore, beforehand, we made some investigation of the Bihar in India. We went to Andar Pradesh to look at the struggle there and we tried to understand the practical situation and practical problems of armed struggle.
Mainly, the debate and discussion in the RIM was very helpful. And after the initiation, with this debate, this big result, thousands and thousands of Indian masses came to understand the People's War in Nepal. And our People's War also helped the whole international movement-because there had been a big setback with the People's War in Peru [with the capture of the PCP's leader, Chairman Gonzalo and the emergence of a right opportunist line]. At a South Asian conference, I told other parties that in this situation the question of helping Peru was not only a question of giving the revolutionaries support, but that we have to initiate People's War in our own countries. That would be the big help. And after the initiation of the People's War in Nepal it has been proven-we helped the PCP, we helped the RIM as a whole, we helped the whole revolutionary masses. And we also took help from all over the world.
Yesterday I saw a note in your journal from your trip, and, really, I am very impressed. You noted there that in Nepal, during only three years of People's War, there have been very big advances. You saw this yourself and noted it there. But you also observed that a very crucial point is coming up. Right now things are at a crucial point. The enemy's involvement against the People's War is going to get much bigger, and this will be a big challenge. We were really impressed that you made this type of conclusion. You understand this kind of situation is developing and the challenge this presents. And you also emphasized in your notes that the whole international community should be alert to this situation and should play a role in talking about and helping to develop the People's War and opposing the government's reactionary moves.
From this point of view we also think international relations and the importance of the People's War in Nepal has been developed. And we think your tour itself is also a vital point in this. It is not merely a case of "you came here and left." It has historical implications, and it is a very big and good initiative. Your trip in Nepal, your project in Nepal, will be a very big initiative for proletarian revolution-for opposing the reactionary ruling classes and for helping the masses of Nepal. It will be a very big initiative. It is not completed-there should be a continuous process with it now.
From your experiences we have come to understand more deeply that these kinds of projects should be done in a continuous and planned and organized way. And now the RIM will learn from your experience in Nepal after the success of your trip. There have been so many physical hardships you've fought, but you've succeeded. And therefore, internationally, we also want to mention this project and this whole trip.
RW: In a number of places I met comrades who talked about how before the initiation the composition of the party was mainly intellectuals. And they told me how there was a lot of ideological struggle among intellectuals to make the necessary rupture, to make the necessary sacrifices, to go underground, leave their jobs and so on-how there was a lot of turmoil among some party members over the sacrifices that needed to be made. Some people fell away, some people came forward. New people came forward from among the masses. Could you talk some about this process of the rupture and the change in the composition of the party-with the initiation and over the last three years of People's War?
Prachanda: This is also a very important question. Yes, there has been a big change in the party, really. We realized before the initiation that after the process of initiation there would be a big process of transformation inside the party. We thought that, possibly, more than 50 percent of our party members could fall away but that other new comrades and new people would come and join the party. We thought this may happen. We considered this question beforehand and we prepared mentally for this to happen-because there were so many petty bourgeois tendencies, so much intellectualism. We mentally prepared for dealing with the question of how to sustain the People's War after this big leap. We discussed this question again and again in the Central Committee and in regional bureaus and in important district committees-that this could happen and we have to be prepared. We said that a very big problem may arise if we do not prepare ourselves. But if we are prepared mentally, then it will not shake us. That was one question.
And in the plan for initiation we had a military plan to attack the police force, the landlords, the local goons in the rural areas. But we did not have a big plan for sabotage in the capital city because, at that time, we did not want to create a situation where with one stroke the intellectuals would go away from us. We wanted to sustain their support. We did not want to make the intellectuals in the capital city or other cities run away and stop working with the party.
What happened was that, after one month, we saw a big change in the rural areas. Big changes started in the rural areas. Some people fled. Some new people came forward. Thousands and thousands of people went underground. In Rolpa, in one month, thousands of people went underground. Not only party members but also masses went underground-in Rukum, in Jarjarkot, in Salyan, in Kalikot. That kind of situation developed. So the process of transformation was very big in those rural areas.
But in the cities where there are more intellectuals, the process of transformation was very, very low, and in some cases, we can say, unsatisfactory. We were not satisfied with the petty bourgeois reactions. One example is what happened just after the initiation of People's War, in the capital city, in Kathmandu. There was government repression everywhere. Artists, journalists, professors, lecturers-everywhere, those who had sympathy with us-were arrested. And at that time, what happened in the city? Wherever we went people said, "You should not stay here, the police will come." There was so much terror among the different sections of intellectuals. For a long time they had been with us. But at that point, they were so afraid, they had so much terror, that even for us, they did not dare to fight-to give us shelter. So for 22 days we had to move about continuously in the city.
But when we got a report from Rolpa, Rukum, Gorkha, Sindhuli, Kabre, the rural areas, there was confidence among the masses and the revolutionary cadres. The sentiment there was, "Yes, we have done a big job. Now new life has started." There was new mass support and mass upsurge in the rural areas. But in the city, the intellectuals were vacillating so much, they were so terrorized, and we saw that this was a question of class. Which class thinks that now we are taking destiny into our hands? This was the situation, and so we had to wage ideological struggle in the cities.
RW: What about the proletarian forces in the city?
Prachanda: The proletarians were in a better position. During this tough time they were the forces in the city-laborers, workers-who helped the party, saved the party. Workers from our All Nepal Trade Labor Organization helped us very much. They were not so terrorized. Their feeling was, "OK, this is a new thing." And another important section was women-this is very, very important. Women in Kathmandu were the other force who, in that time of terror, boldly supported us and gave us shelter and helped us move around. The women helped us at that time. There was also help from students because we had good organization among the students all over the country. And at that time the students were also not so afraid. They felt enlightened, that this was a new thing for Nepal that our party had done. This kind of thinking was there among the students. So it was mainly laborers, women and students who helped us. But the intellectuals, who had a lot of knowledge of philosophy, theories, etc., these people were wavering so much they could not help very much.
And after one year, we saw further big transformation in the rural areas. Thousands and thousands of mass organizations were built up, and in new areas the party's influence spread and new organization developed. Some petty bourgeois revolutionaries, due to terror, fled to India, to Arab countries and other places. Others stayed strong. And at the same time, in the rural areas, there was a mass upsurge of women, and thousands of full-time cadres came forward. People who we did not know beforehand became heroes, really. Just one year after the initiation, for one month, I was in Rolpa, Rukum, Jarjarkot, Salyan, and I saw, and our party saw, that a new thing had developed. The people were not only fighting with the police or reactionary, feudal agents, but they were also breaking the feudal chains of exploitation and oppression and a whole cultural revolution was going on among the people. Questions of marriage, questions of love, questions of family, questions of relations between people. All of these things were being turned upside down and changed in the rural areas.
We came to understand Mao's vision that the backward rural areas will be the basin of revolution-the real base of the revolution. We saw in Rolpa, Rukum, Gorkha, Sindhuli, Kabre, the seeds of the new society, the examples to inspire people. Everywhere in the country, in the revolution, the masses feel proud of their Rolpa and Rukum. And we see, at the ground level, on the mass level, that the transformation process is not only in the party and mass organizations, but among the masses as a whole. The chains of feudal oppression, mainly feudal relations, are breaking.
RW: Yes, especially between men and women.
Prachanda: Yes, men and women, really. And our party has tried to develop the leadership of women comrades. There have been problems in doing this, but now we are, step-by-step, working to solve this problem. Masses of women have come forward as revolutionary fighters. And we had a plan right from the beginning that the women and the men comrades should be in the same squad, the same platoon and that all things should be done in this way. We have worked to make new relations between men and women-new relations, new society, new things.
In the Western Region, right from the beginning, we did not have any big problems and setbacks in this process of transformation, because thousands and thousands of masses were seeing that here was another life. But in the Middle Region and in the Eastern Region that was not the situation. There were more intellectuals there inside the party. When the party would go on the offensive and be victorious these forces would go, "Oh yeah, we should do this." But when there was some kind of setback and repression then they would say, "Oh, no, this will not do." There was this kind of thing in the Middle Region. Here many of the people in the party were petty bourgeois intellectuals, from a petty bourgeois class background. And there is also a more well-to-do economic situation there-every family has some land, some electricity, roads, educational facilities. All these things are there and many party members are from this class, so there are wavering tendencies.
But in this three-year process we have seen transformation also going on in this Middle Region-cultural transformation, ideological transformation. And some of the very best leaders and cadres are developing from this region. This is an important thing we are seeing, new things coming up-some of the older and petty bourgeois people are going downward, and the new masses are coming forward. New cadre are coming forward, and we are trying our best to give responsibility to the new comrades. That is our party's policy. We have to try to do this, not only on the regional and district level, but even on the Central Committee level. Just in the last Fourth Plenum, in the fourth historical plenum, we brought onto the Central Committee seven new younger comrades from the regional level who are really fighting on the ground. You know the comrade who you met in Rolpa in charge of the Task Force?
RW: Yes, he's a very good comrade!
Prachanda: That comrade, just in the Fourth Plenum became a central committee member. There are so many comrades like this. If we do not do this some of the old comrades have the problem of lagging behind. To keep up with the situation, a quickly developing situation with challenging questions, there are comrades who cannot change their whole thinking. They think just like before, and that is a problem. So our party is trying to give responsibility to those comrades who have been steeled in the process of three years of People's War, and this helps the party to stay on the correct path. Leadership should not be in the hands of any kind of opportunistic tendencies. We are very serious in developing new leadership, and the forces we are developing are very enthusiastic, very good. We see that there have been more than 700 martyrs. But thousands have stepped forward. This process does not harm us, it helps us.
When the ruling class started their repressive Kilo Sera 2 operation, we thought it would be a very big thing for our party, that there may be vacillation among the ranks. But ultimately the objective results were that there was not so much vacillation. In some regions there was some vacillation. But in the Western Region, mainly there was not vacillation. Instead there was more confidence, more determination, more confidence to fight. On the mass level, there is not vacillation, therefore we are proud of the masses in our party ranks. In the Middle Region there is some vacillation, there are some vacillating tendencies there. And in the capital city, as you already know, there is vacillation among some intellectuals. But there are also good comrades from among the laborers, women, and students. Very good comrades with commitment and determination.
During this three years of People's War, there have also been other kinds of changes. Peoples of the oppressed nationalities-the Mongolian peoples, the Terai peoples and the far western peoples-have been very sympathetic to the People's War. They feel it is the only alternative for them. And this is also a big victory for the People's War and a big defeat for the reactionary ruling class. So many new organizations among the oppressed nationalities developed after the initiation, like the Magar National Liberation Front.
RW: Yes, I met one of the leaders of that organization.
Prachanda: There is the Taru National Liberation Front in the Terai region and the Terai National Liberation Front and the Rai and Limbu and Tamang. And in the capital city there is Newar Khala, the mass organization of that nationality which has had so many programs-like the recent successful Kathmandu shutdown. This new organization, generated by the party, is carrying out the plan of the party. This process is a new thing that has been born. The reactionary ruling class feels that if these forces grow and develop it will be very dangerous for their whole system. Therefore they try to manipulate the people. They try to make some concessions to the oppressed nationalities and say they will do all kinds of things for them. And they say about the Maoists: "They want to divide the country. They want to divide the Mongolians. They want to divide the Rai, Limbu, Terai. Everywhere they want to divide the people. These are separatists and they will break up the country. Don't follow them." This is the kind of propaganda they try to spread. But people don't believe them. The people know that we are taking this national question seriously and, from a political point of view and a national and historical point of view, this is the only solution for the oppressed nationalities. Nobody, not even the ruling class people of oppressed nationalities, dare to oppose our policy. They are forced to say that this policy of the Maoists is correct. There are so many members of parliament who say, "Yeah the policy of Maoists is correct for oppressed nationalities."
There are also some problems because we have not been able to develop a big wave of struggle of the oppressed nationalities. But new things have been born among the oppressed nationalities, and this is a very big force to sustain the People's War and to make the People's War victorious.
RW: The People's War is about destruction of the enemy. But it is also about construction. One of the biggest achievements of the three years of People's War is how the masses are beginning to exercise people's power. One important contribution of Mao is that he showed us that the process of protracted people's war is also a process of training the masses to run society in a new way, to ideologically and politically train the masses in MLM and to begin transforming themselves and society-even before the seizure of nationwide power and the building of a new socialist society. Could you talk about the importance of exercising people's power at this stage of the revolution?
Prachanda: We had mentioned in our initiation document that initiating the People's War means not only crushing the enemy-it is also to change ourselves, to change the masses. The great Karl Marx stated that the working class would have to go through 15, 20, 50 years of civil war, not only to crush the enemy but also to transform itself, to make itself fit to exercise new power. We quoted this, and we quoted Lenin about how the process of civil war will come with an extremely complex situation. And by facing this situation, the party will be able to exercise power. We also quoted comrade Mao about how the process of People's War is not only to crush the enemy, but also to clean our own dirtiness and all our bad habits-bad things we have had for a long time. To clean all these things, that is also the aim of the People's War. Right from the beginning, we tried to give the masses this message, and we tried to train the whole party in this direction. And in our country where the proletarian class is very weak numerically, the laborers who work in factories in Kathmandu or other cities have also not totally broken with bad habits.
Therefore in this type of country, protracted People's War is also part of forming a new type of revolutionary party. This is a lesson of history. Without this kind of revolutionary struggle, a revolutionary communist party is not possible in these types of countries. We train the people in this thinking. We have said that, ultimately, the process of destruction is not only a process of destruction, it is also a process of construction. Without destruction there will not be construction, as Mao and other great leaders have said. But which is principal? After the initiation we said, for us, destruction is principal, construction is secondary. And when we reach the point of seizing and exercising real power, at that point, questions of construction will be the main point. But even then, there will be a question that without destruction there will not be any construction. Like Mao said, people usually think that war is very destructive, war is very bad, it kills people, all these things. But people do not understand that war is a great process of construction. War has a very big cleansing effect. We also try to teach the people and train the cadre to understand this.
And we must also learn war by waging war. The intellectuals' instinctive tendency is that we have to learn all these things, we should read everything, we have to do all these things, and then we can make war. These kinds of tendencies were there right from the beginning. But we said, no, this is not Maoism. This is not Marxism. This is not dialectical materialism. This is not according to the scientific theory of knowledge. The question is learning war through war.
Comrade Mao said: We had nothing at first. We had only millet. We ate millet. We had some rifles, and we fought, and we captured all these things. We were not clear at that time what to hit and what not to hit. We went to hit and we learned how to hit.
We also try to do things in this way.
You asked about the question of people's power. In the Western Region, in some districts, there was a kind of power vacuum just after one year. But at that point, we were not in a position to exercise power in an organized form. We had not defeated the police enough. This was the kind of situation there.
RW: You mean like the government Village Development Committee (VDC) chairmen were gone, but the police were still strong?
Prachanda: Yes, the police were strong. There were no VDC chairmen working there, but the police post was still there. This was the particular kind of situation there one year after the initiation. And after two years, the question of power became a burning question. It was coming onto the agenda, and we started to study the question of exercising power. We discussed at what level we could organize the process of exercising people's power. And after two years, two and a half years, we saw that, in the main region, mainly in the Western Region, the local police were mainly defeated. They stopped going into the villages in the rural areas. They were so afraid that they did not go into the villages. They stayed in their offices, at their post. And even then, sometimes the police would sleep outside the post. They would put a candle or lantern inside the post, and when the Maoists came to attack the post, then they would be outside in the forest. This kind of thing happened. This was the kind of situation at hundreds and hundreds of police posts. Our squads succeeded in carrying out some important ambushes and some important raids and that terrorized the police. They suffered a kind of defeat. And at that point in the villages there were not any Village Development Committees and there were not any police.
But at first, our exercising of power was not well planned, it was not well defined. It was not well done. In the process of two years of People's War, in the main region, a power vacuum developed, and our comrades should have begun exercising power. They did not understand what they were doing, that we needed to exercise power. But they had to do everything. The masses were demanding this. Among the masses there were some quarrels that needed to be settled. There were the questions of marriage, education, and land-mainly land questions-that needed to be settled. All these things. At one point, when we studied what was going on in the field, we found that the squad commander was becoming the political leader. Power was in the hands of the squad commander, not the party DCS (district committee secretary) or area secretary. People saw the squad commander as their political leader. The squad commander would give speeches and attack the rural agents. And everything he did-he was in uniform. So then the people think, he is our leader. Power was in the hands of the squad commander. At one point, for three to four months, that was the situation. And we said, this is not a good thing. The guns should be led by the party. The guns should not lead the party. This is the Maoist view. This was not a mistake on the part of the squad commanders. It was not well planned, it was not well discussed. It was spontaneous. Then the party center discussed all these questions, and the questions of united front and the questions of power were defined.
RW: This was two years after the initiation?
Prachanda: Two and a half years. The spontaneous exercise of power started just after two years. For four months, not only in the Western Region, but in some areas in the Eastern Region and some rural areas in the Middle Region, there was a power vacuum; and in fact power was administered by the people themselves, by the people's army, the squads. That was the situation.
RW: So the party's organized plan and strategy for exercising people's power is fairly new?
Prachanda: Really we can say this started after the Fourth Plenum, when we said: now we are going forward on the road of making base areas. Then we had a well-defined plan of exercising people's power.
RW: So this was at the end of 1998?
Prachanda: Yes. But before then, a general vision was there-that we should have a united front, that we have to exercise power. A general vision was there, but a complete plan was not. And before our plan was completed, real power was in our hands. You have already heard how our comrades tax the local businessmen, how there are people's courts, land distribution, and collective farming, divorce, marriage-all these things the people do. We saw this new people's power develop. At first, we did not teach the masses-they taught us how to begin exercising power. It cannot be dictated from above. The masses themselves, through the process of People's War, through the process of struggle, gave birth to the forms of new people's power. They started to do all these things.
Just after starting this whole process, we completed plans to make a united front, organize mass gatherings and have the masses elect leaders to exercise people's power. We said we should follow the three-in-one principle [forming leadership groups which combine the party, the army and united front masses]. We saw that we needed to study more and more the process of making revolutionary committees, like what happened in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China-that we should learn from how they formed revolutionary committees and applied the three-in-one principle. We are now in a preliminary process; it is not yet refined. But we are seeing big things happen. And now, what people think, when they see this whole process, is that they have power and they feel proud. The masses feel that we have power now: we can distribute land, we have collective farming, we can divorce, we can make arrangements, we can break all the chains, we can tax the businessmen, we can manage the forests. We can do all these things by ourselves-no VDC, no police. Our united front is here, our squad is here. The people really feel this. And this great feeling is the basis for the victory of People's War. This is the basis the enemy can never crush.
This great feeling among the masses is mainly in the Western Region. In the Eastern and Middle Region this feeling is also developing. But the situation for the enemy in these regions is very favorable. The government can go everywhere and crush the people. Therefore there are problems. But even in these areas people are gradually understanding the importance of power. In the Middle Region, many hectares of land have been captured, and thousands and thousands of quintals of grain have been captured and distributed to the masses. And this process makes the people feel like, "Yes, this is ours."
RW: In terms of exercising people's power, one of the areas that is less developed is land reform and more collective forms of production among the peasants. For revolutions in oppressed countries, the land question and production relations in the countryside are very key in terms of revolutionizing society. What is the party's vision of this process of revolutionizing production relations in the countryside, as part of the process of construction in the People's War?
Prachanda: We say that this new democratic revolution is an agrarian revolution. Basically, the character of this revolution is agrarian. But the situation in Nepal is not classical, not traditional. In the Terai region we find landlords with some lands, and we have to seize the lands and distribute them among the poor peasants. But in the whole mountainous regions, that is not the case. There are small holdings, and there are not big landlords. Therefore our main plan in those areas is to develop collective farming and revolutionize the production relations. How to develop production, how to raise production is the main problem here. The small pieces of land mean the peasants have low productivity. With collective farming it will be more scientific and things can be done to raise production. But we cannot do this collective farming instantly. In terms of land ownership, it will be private ownership by the peasant. But the production process will be collective. We are trying to do this in our regions. And, mainly in our developed regions, collective farming has already been established.
RW: Can you explain this more, how that is happening?
Prachanda: In the developed areas we have already made a plan and started, in some areas of Rolpa and some areas of Rukum and some areas of Jarjarkot and some in Salyan-less in Salyan, mainly in Rolpa, Rukum and Jarjarkot. First we seized some land from landlords who live in Kathmandu, and from usurers and such types. We seized that land, but we did not distribute that land to the peasants. Because to distribute that land piece by piece to peasants will not work, will not help to develop their livelihood, their economic level. So number one are the kinds of land seized from landlords, usurers, etc. Number two are other lands, like public lands which can be cultivated. And number three are lands owned by peasants. These are the three types of lands that are there. When we seize the land from landlords, that land will become collectively owned-there will be collective mass ownership. That land will be the land of the masses, and all the peasants will work on that land, and the earnings from that land will be the property of that locality.
RW: How is the grain from that land distributed? Does it become collective funds?
Prachanda: Yes, collective funds. The return from that land will be the collective funds of the masses, used for the needs of the masses of that locality. Up to this point we have done it like this. And the fallow land, or public land which can be cultivated-we are trying to cultivate this land collectively and distribute the return to the masses collectively. Collective distribution means according to what percent of the work has been done, according to the number of hours worked. How many work hours a particular family did on that land-the return will be in that percentage.
RW: So there is some system of accounting where the peasants work and they get so much credit for hours worked and grains are distributed accordingly.
Prachanda: Yes, exactly that. Where our mass base is strong and the masses are in the process of struggle, we are starting to have collective farming. Private ownership, but farming collectively. This has already shown effectiveness in the process of production.
RW: So this would be like five farmers who each own five plots of land, but they all will work on the land together. Will they collectivize the tools, implements, animals?
Prachanda: Animals, tools, land-according to the land, according to the tools they use and work hours, in that percentage, according to the percentage of the work done, they divide the production. In this way we can raise the quantity of production. This is what we are doing in the developed areas. But in less developed areas, in the Eastern Region and the Middle Region, we are trying a kind of system that is not exactly an exchange of labor power. But like during the rainy season, if you have less manpower or your labor power is not sufficient and you cannot do well in cultivation, then other peasant families are there to help. My family will help you, and your family will help me, and we will help him. This kind of tradition is there in peasant families.
RW: This kind of tradition already existed?
Prachanda: These kinds of traditions were there, and now we are developing this tradition in an organized way. And in a more organized way we are starting to develop different kinds of collective farming-and measures that lead to collective farming. We are trying to organize this system of farming, and it enables the peasants to achieve a kind of unity among them. They are doing all these things to break the chains of feudalism, and it is a school of cultural transformation. When all our families work together, eat together, sing together, dance together-then it is more communal.
In the Terai, up to this time, we haven't had a strong mass base, there is not a strong struggle. There is guerrilla action going on in the Terai, in the plainlands. There are big landlords, there is king's land, queen's land-so many big bourgeois lands are there. Up to now what we have done is seize the grain of landlords. We are not yet able, in the Terai, to seize the land. But we are able to seize stored grain. This enables the masses to understand the importance of the People's War, the importance of the revolution. Gradually they are coming to see, "Yes, this is ours." And so we are also developing a mass base in the Terai region.
RW: One very important question I wanted to ask relates to the party's Fourth Strategic Plan of developing the base areas. Could you speak about where that process is now and what needs to be achieved in this next period to carry out that plan.
Prachanda: This is also a very important question. Our Fourth Plenum has sketched out, figured out, the questions of building base areas. To make this plan of developing base areas, first of all we tried to clarify the theoretical conception of base areas, because in South Asia there is a tendency of armed economism, a kind of armed economism-a kind of reformism, armed reformism.
RW: Armed struggle with no vision?
Prachanda: No vision, exactly. This line exists in India. Some groups say guerrilla zone, guerrilla zone, guerrilla zone. For 25 years they say guerrilla zone, but there is not any perspective, real perspective. And we knew this question of guerrilla zone and base area was going to be a very serious question. We tried to clear up these questions because base areas is a strategic question for protracted people's war. Without the aim of base areas there is no real people's war. Without a strategic view of base areas there is no question of protracted people's war.
The question of guerrilla zones is not a strategic question. It is a transitional question-from unarmed masses to armed masses and from the masses without power to the masses with power. To go through this process, the guerrilla zone is only transitional. It is not a strategic question. Therefore we should not confuse the terms guerrilla zone and base area. Our main strategy is to seize, to capture, base areas, to build up base areas. First we clarified this in our plan.
Second, in our concrete situation we are not, right now, going to establish base areas. We are not in that position. We are not going to establish base areas in this Fourth Plan. We are concentrating, centralizing all our efforts to build base areas. Our political, ideological, military efforts are all concentrated on forming base areas, but now we are not establishing base areas. We are in the process of building base areas. We need to understand this.
RW: Is the distinction between permanent and temporary base areas?
Prachanda: Not exactly. We are not using the terms temporary and permanent. We are in the process of building base areas. We are not saying "temporary base area." It may be temporary or permanent. It depends on the force of the people's power-which means our military capacity.
RW: What will distinguish a base area? Right now you say you are in the process of forming base areas. But what will be the criteria to say: now we have established a base area?
Prachanda: The criteria for having a base area, from the military point of view, is that we have defeated the military capacity of the enemy at that point. Until and unless we defeat a section of the military sent against us, the enemy's armed force-then we cannot say we have a stable base area. We can exercise a kind of preliminary form of base area. But we cannot say it is stable.
We see that Mao did not use the term permanent or temporary. What he said is stable base area, unstable base area, base area in preliminary form. These three types of forms Mao experienced and synthesized. Therefore, to have a stable base area we have to crush the enemy's armed force. But before this we can make unstable base areas. We fight with the armed forces, and, for the time being, they do not come. Therefore, we have a base area. But when they come, then they will fight, and that will be unstable. And for the time being, it may be just like a guerrilla zone. Then again, we capture, we defeat the enemy and then it will be stable. This kind of stable and unstable process will be there. We see it like this.
And you asked about the criteria to have a base area. One is a strong party organization. Strong, consistent leadership should be there. Number two is a good mass base, just like Mao said. A good mass base of struggling masses. And having a good mass base means having not only sympathizers, but masses who themselves are trained in the war. That is the meaning of a good mass base. And you need a strong people's army. Up to this point, we have not said, "People's Army," "People's Liberation Army"-these kinds of terms we have not used. We have used guerrilla squad, guerrilla platoon.
RW: So you do not use the term "people's army"?
Prachanda: In the theoretical sense we use the term people's army. But as a formal name of the army, we are not saying, "This is our PLA, People's Liberation Army." We have a people's army, but we have not called this form of organization the "People's Liberation Army." Now we have a goal of forming companies. We are organized now, up to the platoon. And you saw the Special Task Force-this is a step, moving toward forming companies.
When we sustain a company formation, when there are two, three, four companies, and, at the same time, there are platoons elsewhere-then we will say this is our strong army. Our vision is that when we have companies, then we will have a strong army to have a base area. That is also the other criteria.
And to establish base areas a particular national situation and international situation is also necessary. This means there are big contradictions among the ruling classes-they are fighting among each other-and there is also an unstable situation with India. Because for us, ultimately, we will have to fight with the Indian army. That is the situation. Therefore we have to take into account the Indian army. When the Indian army comes in with thousands and thousands of soldiers, it will be a very big thing. But we are not afraid of the Indian Army because, in one way, it will be a very good thing.
RW: You will be able to capture lots of guns from them...
Prachanda: Yes, they will give us lots of guns. And lots of people will fight them. This will be a national war. And it will be a very big thing. They will have many difficulties intervening. It will not be so easy for them. But if they stupidly dare...they will dare, they will be compelled. They will do that stupidity.
We have to prepare for that. And for that reason we are saying we will also need a particular international situation. And for us this has to do mainly with India, Indian expansionism. When there is an unstable situation in India and a strong mass base there in support of People's War in Nepal and there are contradictions within the Indian ruling class-at that point we can seize, we can establish and declare that we have base areas, that we have a government.
When we declare we have made a base area then formally we will make a central government. We are thinking that when Rolpa, Rukum, Jarjarkot, Salyan become a liberated zone, then we will declare the People's Republic of Nepal-the government of the People's Republic of Nepal. That government will be in the center, and there will also be base areas, guerrilla zones, some prospective base area zones, different kinds of zones. But when a base area is declared, then the People's Republic of Nepal will also be declared.
Therefore, just now, we are not saying we have established base areas. But in the practical sense you understand, when you were there in Rolpa and Rukum, you saw that there is a kind of base area-where we are exercising power. We are collecting taxes, we are holding people's court, we are controlling the forests, all these things. There, we have the squad, platoon, and Special Task Force. And the police do not dare come into these areas. This is a kind of preliminary base area. This is the process of forming base areas.
RW: Let me just clarify. You said that once a base area is formed the People's Republic of Nepal would be declared. You're saying this would be declared before the seizure of power nationwide?
Prachanda: We have not exactly drawn up a detailed plan. But in general our thinking is that when we are in the position of first declaring a base area in one region of the country, other regions should be near to being base areas. Like in the Eastern and Middle Region, a form of power will have to be openly exercised. Until that time, we cannot make a liberated zone in the West. But with that situation we can organize a big mass movement in Kathmandu and other cities also. We are thinking like this. It is not final and it has not been already decided. But we generally think that in Nepal we can do it like this, because we already have a central united front. And we have a plan of making this united front as a tool for revolutionary struggle on the central level, and a tool for people's power, on the local level. This is our definition of the united front. On the local level it should be an instrument of exercising power. On the central level it should be an instrument of propaganda and revolutionary mass struggle.
When that kind of situation develops, then we can make this central united front a form of a people's republic, a form of people's republic for propaganda value, political value, and to crush the enemy and arouse the masses. On the central level, we will have to make a form of government. But before this we are not saying we have a form of government-it is a united front.
RW: Declaring a new government would also have international implications because you would demand to be recognized internationally.
Prachanda: Yes, international recognition-all these things we will have to do. In our Fourth Plenum these questions came up. Should we now say we have a formal government? No, it would be premature. We must say that it is premature, it is not time to say this. But when we look at the whole process of development, we see that, ultimately, at one point we will have to declare a new government and the president and the republic, the ministry and all these things. And we will appeal to the world masses that this is the people's government.
We are also saying that we will not liberate only two, three, four districts and not care about other regions or the capital city. In Nepal when we liberate an area and declare our government-and it is our base area in the Western Region-then we will need a clear and well-defined plan for the whole country and masses. There should be a big mass upsurge in other parts of the country. Without such mass upsurge and mass struggle in all other prospective base areas and guerrilla zones at the time, then militarily we would not be able to sustain our base area. Because at this time India will also come at us, and the police force will be centralized to crush us. Then thousands of masses will be slaughtered.
RW: So a base area can only be established if the People's War is strong throughout the whole country.
Prachanda: Yes, that is our perspective.
RW: Maybe you could speak briefly on the question of building a new culture among the people. In particular, there were two things that struck me in my travels. One was the particular culture of sacrifice and devotion to the party and what role that plays in developing the People's War and the revolutionary consciousness of the people. The second thing is more general, the question of developing a culture of rebelling against feudal traditions and revolutionizing social relations among people.
Prachanda: On this question I want to say that training the masses in the spirit of sacrifice is very important because in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution, in today's whole situation, without sacrifice, without bloodshed, we cannot seize power, and we cannot transform the whole society on a new basis. Therefore there is the question of sacrifice, of shedding blood, just as you saw with the martyrs in the West. People want to be martyrs. The people feel that to be martyrs is to be respected. This is the great feeling which will enable us to change the whole feudal, individualistic, and anarchist outlook prevailing in this society. When you live among those comrades, those families of martyrs-martyrs' brothers, mothers, sons-you see that a kind of cultural transformation is going on inside them and their feelings.
When one of the comrades is martyred we vigorously make it a question of pride and historical importance. And the mother and father, the parents of that martyr, will then feel that, "Now my one son has died, but there are thousands and thousands of others who are now my sons." This is the great feeling. This is the great change that has happened. Those parents see that "everybody is my son-hundreds of young people are now my sons." The whole feudal and individualistic, sectarian culture that has prevailed has been changed upside down. We encourage, for our cultural revolution, this kind of sacrifice, and we glorify this kind of sacrifice. Because we know, in this era, in today's world situation, thousands and thousands of people will have to be prepared to be sacrificed.
Mao said, if there is a third world war, everybody cannot be killed. Maybe half the population will be gone and half the population will remain and a new world will emerge. It's not that Mao was irresponsible to say this. The spirit of what he said is not that millions of people should die. It was the spirit of making a new world. It was the spirit of transforming the world.
And in a more general sense, you asked about overall how to change feudalism. There are two questions here, I think. One is the party should make a complete plan, and there should be a complete effort to do this. There should be a developed ideological and political line and training to change the feudal relations. Second, we have to make a concrete plan for every region. Because, just as I said, although Nepal is small, then again, it is big. There are many kinds of culture here. Some are tribal cultures, more primitive cultures, upper caste cultures-there are all different types of cultures. And we cannot make one plan for all of these.
For the whole Himalayan region, we should make a complete plan-looking at the cultural problems, traditional chains, different kinds of tribal problems that are there. And in the mountainous region, in the Western Region, as you saw, there are not so many temples. But when you go to Kathmandu there are so many temples-it is a capital of temples. Therefore we have to make a conscious effort for every region, for every nationality. What are their traditional chains, what forms of feudal exploitation and feudal oppression are prevailing in that nationality-we have to make efforts to consciously crush these things.
And the last point is that the main question is struggle. In the process of struggle, the masses transform themselves. Struggle is the main vehicle of transformation. Other things are secondary.
RW: To follow up this question, there is the particular role of women in the People's War and the question of breaking down the feudal oppression of women. One thing that we learned from the class struggle and revolutionary process in China is that there is a dialectical relationship between the ideological and political struggle-transforming the thinking of people-and transforming the actual social, economic and family relations that hold women back, that prevent women from playing an equal role in society.<\d><\n> In other words, as long as women still have the main responsibility of taking care of children and the housework, these kinds of things, they will be prevented from playing a full role in society and in the revolution. So new forms have to be found in society to solve this contradiction. And this is a process of class struggle among the people-to transform the thinking of the people in order to change the institutions and to develop new revolutionary institutions which change the relations between people and further transform their thinking. Maybe you could speak some to this in terms of what has been achieved in the People's War in Nepal-and also what more needs to be done, including bringing women into higher levels of leadership and responsibility.
Prachanda: Before the initiation, the woman question was not so seriously debated in our party. That was our weakness. And in our society, male domination, feudal relations have prevailed for a long time. In general terms we agreed, yeah, the woman question is important. As communists we know these things. But in a concrete sense, in a serious sense, I will say that before initiation we were not so serious on the woman question. And because we were not serious, therefore, many woman comrades were not at the forefront of the movement. There were some women sympathizers and some organizers, but there was not much effort to develop the women comrades.
Then right after initiation the question came up-it boldly came up. And especially in my experience, I was very thrilled when, during the first year after initiation, I saw the sacrifice women were making in the main region, in the struggling zones-their militancy, their heroism, and their devotion. When I saw women masses come into the field, then we started to debate seriously the woman question. And now the situation in the party, more or less, has mainly changed to seeing the woman question from a proletarian viewpoint. From different angles, we try to understand the woman question-what is the meaning of the woman question, what is the political and theoretical importance, and what are the practical implications in the class struggle and the whole historical perspective?
And from a practical point of view, I want to say that among the oppressed nationalities, there is not so much male domination. There is a kind of equality there. In some nationalities women are seen as more important-the wives are seen as more important than the men.
RW: What nationalities are you referring to here?
Prachanda: Mainly the Mongolian nationalities, mainly Magar, and mainly in Rolpa and Rukum. Here there is not as much male domination. Women can easily divorce, and if a woman remarries the community does not look at her like she is a bad woman. The traditions are very different. More and more militant and revolutionary women cadres are coming from those nationalities. And we are trying our best to develop the leadership of those comrades.
Before the initiation there were not any women comrades in the district committees. Now there are. In Rolpa, there are three or four women comrades in the district committee, and in the secretariat also there are women comrades. And there are women comrades who direct whole area party committees, who direct whole squads. All these things they are doing. Also there are some district committee secretaries, new women comrades who have been developed and they have done a good job. And you saw in one district in the East, the DCS is a woman comrade. And in another district, near the Indian border, there is also a DCS woman comrade. In district committees, there are now more than 40 to 50 women. This shows the big change in our national structure and how we are developing the leadership qualities of women. We are also trying to bring women into regional level leadership, and we are trying to develop them on the level of central committee leadership.
In the oppressed nationalities, there is a lot of potential for developing proletarian leadership from among the women masses. And we are focusing, centralizing, our effort here to develop the leadership of women. There is also a lot of potential to develop the leadership of women from among laborers.
RW: What about the practical obstacles that women face in the home, in terms of playing a larger role? For example, when I was traveling around, I saw many women with small children, and this is a problem. Some women are able to have relatives take care of their children, but this is not always possible. Is there a vision of socializing more of the housework and childcare?
Prachanda: At this point, the practical problems women comrades are facing, we can say the whole party is facing, are mainly the question of taking care of small children. With squad members who get pregnant and have babies, there is the question of who will look after the child. Some women comrades have a good spirit to continue working, but the practical problems of caring for a baby become a big obstacle.
In the main region, what the party is trying to do, for the time being, is that when a woman has a baby, she will be placed in a secure area among the masses for about six months. She will not go back to her own home, and she will be among the masses, still doing whatever work she can do in the local area. Then after six months, she can travel with her child and other comrades can also carry the child, and the women comrades can then go and speak and organize. This is the kind of thing hundreds of women are doing. And when the child is one year old, then they can be cared for by the masses or mass organizations and the woman comrade can leave.
Now locally, the party is discussing the question of how to organize collective childcare. This question is presenting itself practically at this time. In some places, there are plans to set up a childcare house where comrades who have good experience and spirit will go and work. This plan is not finalized but is being discussed.
Also, the party is not directly pressing, but strongly encouraging men and women comrades, couples, not to have children for the time being, to not have a baby for five to seven or ten years because it will be a big practical problem. We explain that on this question, it is also a kind of sacrifice. We should have to sacrifice-don't have a baby. And there are so many cases of couples who are not having babies right now. But trying to not have children presents another problem, because Nepal is very backward and there are not health centers, there are not doctors.
RW: You mean lack of birth control?
Prachanda: When a woman gets pregnant then the question arises of abortion-they want to have an abortion. And after several abortions the physical condition of the woman will be harmed.
RW: So actually birth control is a pressing question.
Prachanda: Yes, a pressing question. We tell comrades it will help if they do not have babies for the time being. But if they do have a child then we will organize the masses to solve the problem of childcare. And there are so many cases where women have a baby, and, when they have some kind of childcare outside the party's organizational setup, then the police will capture her. There are so many woman comrades who are in jail in the Western Region because of this.
RW: Because they had to leave the safe areas?
Prachanda: If they leave safe areas outside the control of our organization then they will be captured by the enemy. That kind of problem also exists.
In terms of women, I want to say that another very big problem is developing leadership...
RW: And illiteracy is a big obstacle for women, right? Because the low theoretical level, educational level, presents an obstacle to women coming into higher levels of leadership.
Prachanda: Yes, that is also a question. Now on the local level we are trying to develop a local education system to teach women comrades to read and write-night school. Such things are in the process of being done. But this will be a long process. It is a protracted process. Five, ten, twenty years is necessary to make everyone literate. We should teach the women comrades how to read and write. There are many women comrades now who are already literate, and we are trying our best to develop them in leadership. But illiteracy is a big problem, and we are trying to raise the level of literacy among the general masses.
RW: Before we end, could you briefly tell us about your personal background, so that people know something about you. What is your political history? What shaped your revolutionary thinking and activities? How did the class struggle, in Nepal and internationally, impact on you?
Prachanda: I am from a poor peasant family from the middle region, from Pokhara. But because of the poor conditions, my family, my parents, moved from Pokhara, from the mountain area, to the Terai region-Chitwan district. My whole youth, high school, was in Chitwan district. And I started being influenced by communist ideology 28 years ago, when I was about 17 years old. At that time there were big mass movements in the area. There were student movements. There were anti-Indian expansionism mass movements. All these things impressed me. This is an area with big Indian comprador bourgeois forces and a lot of exploitation. All these things made some impression on me. And even more, what impressed me, convinced me, was the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China. Mao, the Cultural Revolution, all the anti-revisionist movements: all these things impressed me.
Twenty-eight years ago I became a communist, I became a party member. And after some time, there was a big two-line struggle, and I was in touch with the revolutionary comrades in the Fourth Party Congress. In the process of that two-line struggle, I came into contact with revolutionary comrades more senior than me, and we had close contact, discussion, and debate.
And in the class struggle there was a big mass movement going on. Twenty years ago there was a big mass movement, and in my district, a big women's movement and peasants' movement. This also provided the environment to develop my revolutionary thinking. At the same time, there was a big two-line struggle inside the party, and I continuously went with the revolutionary line. And when there was a split with Dumdum (M. B. Singh), then collectively we comrades, the main team in the central committee, tried to study the whole international process, the international communist movement, the Nepalese communist movement. And in that process my thinking developed.
RW: The struggle against revisionism has been very important...
Prachanda: My main thrust is that I hate revisionism. I seriously hate revisionism. And I never compromise with revisionism. I fought and fought again with revisionism. And the party's correct line is based on the process of fighting revisionism. I hate revisionism. I seriously hate revisionism.
RW: I'd like to explore some more your comments about the international situation and, specifically, the significance of the People's War in Nepal, as part of the world revolution. What is your thinking on that, from two sides-how the People's War in Nepal can give strength to the international movement and how the international communist movement can give strength to the People's War in Nepal, that dialectical relationship?
Prachanda: Objectively there is a dialectical relationship between the People's War in Nepal and the whole international situation and movement. And what we think, and I think, is that a new wave of revolution, world revolution is beginning, because imperialism is facing a great crisis. Some people are saying that economically and culturally imperialism is in deeper crisis than before World War 2. There are so many symptoms of radical change that the people's movements are seeing around the world. And from an economic, cultural and political basis, we see that a new wave of world revolution is beginning. This is fact. We have to grasp this question because just like Mao said, there will be 50 to 100 years of great turmoil and great transformation.
From a practical point of view, the People's War in Nepal is contributing to making and accelerating this new wave of revolution. And it is contributing to the organization of the international communist movement on a Maoist basis. And Maoism should be the commander of this new wave of world revolution. The People's War in Peru has done a good job of establishing Maoism. We also think that the RCP,USA has done a good job, ideologically and politically, to fight against revisionism and establish Maoism. And our party and the People's War in Nepal is also accelerating this process.
Right now, subjectively, the proletarian forces are weak-after Mao's death and the counter-revolution in China. Nepal is a small country, we are a small party-but we have a big perspective. Our People's War may be a spark, a spark for a prairie fire. We have already seen that during this three years of People's War, the Indian communists and Indian masses have been somewhat impressed. And there have been thousands and thousands of masses in New Delhi, shouting, "Long live People's War in Nepal. We will support People's War in Nepal." In every corner now in India the People's War in Nepal is the subject of debate.
We are carrying out People's War under the banner of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Therefore we think it has played a very significant and important role among the Indian revolutionary masses and in the ideological debate in the Indian communist movement. It has also helped the RIM very much in exposing international revisionism, modern revisionism, revisionism in China and Russian revisionism. In Nepal there is a very big revisionist party and much revisionist influence. And the People's War has played a very big role in exposing all this.
This war has changed the name of the country itself-the identity of the country. It was a very backward, poor and beggar country. But now it is a country of heroes, of proletarian heroes. And now on the world's highest peak, Sargamatha (Mount Everest) - the red flag is there. This will be seen from all over the world. People will say: What country is Nepal? It is the country with the world's highest peak, Mount Everest. What is there? Heroic proletarian revolution, People's War is there. This will be seen.
Therefore we think we have a very big responsibility, we face a big challenge in this present international situation. And we will do our best. We should do our best, to the end, to fulfill our duty and responsibility.
When you are in a pond or in the middle of a lake you do not know the importance of water. But when you are in the desert, then you see that just one glass of water is very important. Today there are not many genuine People's Wars in the world. So in this desert of revolutionary war, the People's War in Nepal is one glass of water for all the revolutionary people. And we will fulfill our duty to give water to the revolutionary people.
We also see that without the experiences of the whole international communist movement-and without the help of the RIM and without the help of all the communist leaders and dedicated comrades who are keenly and seriously helping the People's War in Nepal-we will not be able to sustain and maintain the People's War in Nepal. And finally, I want to say that, although we are in weaker position subjectively, objectively a wave of revolution is beginning and we communists should dare to fight and we will win.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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