European Tour: Dispatches from the People's War in Nepal

Revolutionary Worker #1181, December 29, 2002, posted at

I wake up before the sun rises on my last day in Rolpa. For a month I have been traveling deep into the guerrilla zones of this famous stronghold of the People's War in Nepal. I came to learn about the harsh conditions of poverty and feudal backwardness that have given rise to this popular insurgency. I wanted to understand the people living and dying in this growing conflict. And my journal is now full of interviews and candlelight conversations -stories, strategies and the passion of poor farmers seizing land; students joining the "people's army"; young women escaping arranged marriages.

After a quick breakfast of roti and lentils we pack up everything and are ready to go. Everyone comes outside for parting words and handshakes. Some of the political and military leaders I met along the way have come to say goodbye. The guerrillas tell me they have great hope that, through me, people internationally will hear about their struggle for liberation.

Li Onesto writing about her 1999 trip to Nepal

This fall, the World People's Resistance Movement (WPRM) gave people in Europe the opportunity to hear the real story about the People's War in Nepal when they invited RW reporter Li Onesto to do a major speaking tour. From November 22 to December 5, programs were held in nine major cities--Hamburg, Berlin and Frankfurt in Germany; Antwerp, Belgium; Paris; London; Milan, Italy; Geneva, Switzerland; and Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Attendance was in the range of 50-80 in the smaller meetings, 100 in Paris and 150-200 in London, Berlin and Antwerp. All together close to 1,000 people attended these programs.

The programs included a slideshow of photographs from Li Onesto's trip, a presentation on the character and development of the People's War and an update on the current situation. A broad range of people attended, including some who had been in the streets protesting war on Iraq and many immigrants with rich experience living under and fighting repressive regimes. In one program alone there were people from Turkey, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Nepal, and Iran.

Some who came knew very little about Nepal but were intrigued by this growing revolution. There were those skeptical and confused by disinformation in the bourgeois media, but open to hearing what Li Onesto's first-hand experience reveals. Close followers of the People's War in Nepal posed thorny questions and offered sharp comments. And there were also people who clearly disagree with Maoism but felt compelled to take a look at this living example of a "theory" they had written off as "dead." A member of the Belgian parliament attended the program in Antwerp. And at the London tour, people from the Socialist Labor Party (a split-off from Tony Blair's party) came to announce that their national conference had just passed a resolution against imperialist attacks on the People's War in Nepal.

This broad interest highlighted how the People's War in Nepal has become a real material force-- which friend, foe and everything in between want to understand. Those antagonistic to Maoism are challenged by, and cannot easily dismiss or attack the popularity and success of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). People recognize this insurgency poses a real threat to the Nepalese government's hold on power--that a Maoist victory in Nepal would reverberate throughout South Asia. And many are curious about why this revolution has captured the imagination and support of millions of poor peasants.

Revolutionary Experience

When Li Onesto was in Nepal, many people in the guerrilla zones told her how they saw their struggle as part of the worldwide revolution. And the tour showed how concretely relevant and important the People's War in Nepal is to revolutionaries all over the planet who dream of--and are fighting for--a liberated world.

The cruel workings of imperialism have caused war, economic devastation and dislocation. And millions of immigrants have come to Europe looking for a better life, many seeking political asylum. This was reflected in the fact that at all of the programs at least half, if not the majority of the audience were immigrants from Third World countries. This led to many instances of people sharing both common and different revolutionary experiences.

In Germany, at least half of the people in the audience were from Turkey. There were Maoist comrades who had made brave sacrifices in the revolution in Turkey--including those who had fought in the guerrilla war against the fascist regime and men and women who had participated in the 2000-2001 hunger strikes in Turkey's hellish prisons and almost died after being on a "death fast" for over 230 days.

Audiences also included many immigrants from Nepal--who brought experiences living under the oppressive Nepalese regime, as well as stories of what it is like in the Maoist base areas. In Antwerp, Belgium, almost all of the 180 people in the crowd were Nepalese. During the slideshow, there was enthusiastic applause at the photo of Prachanda, Chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). And another round of cheers went up for the first photos of People's Liberation Army guerrillas.

Organizing and building for these programs was a major challenge for the WPRM, which was formed in April 2002 "to resist and unite against the common enemy of the world's people, whose name is imperialism."

There were many logistical problems to solve as the tour traveled over 2,000 miles in less than two weeks. Organizers faced a real challenge as almost every conversation had to be conducted in at least three languages, sometimes more. The flyer for the program in London was issued in English, Spanish, Farsi, Baluchi, Nepalese and Turkish. A half dozen more languages were used for publicity in other cities. And providing translations at the meetings was a crucial and complicated task.

All this was new, difficult, and sometimes frustrating. But what people found out very quickly was that even though it was, say, hard to organize a meeting of people speaking Turkish, German, Nepali, French and English, what everyone shared was far more profound and strong than what kept them apart. The revolutionary internationalist character of the WPRM really glowed and it was a great and fun experience for the comrades who worked so hard to make the tour a success.

Hope of the Hopeless

Li Onesto's writings on Nepal have circulated around the world--in part or in whole, her series, Dispatches: Report from the People's War in Nepal and the interview she did with Chairman Prachanda have been translated (to our knowledge) into German, French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Pashtun (in Afghanistan) and Nepali. This shows how thirsty people are for such information--and how revolutionary people around the world are closely studying this example of the masses taking history into their own hands. The German edition of Li Onesto's series, the book Rote Fahne Auf Dem Dach Der Welt (Red Flag on the Roof of the World), was released the first week of the tour and in Germany as many as 20 copies were sold in one night.

Li Onesto told the RW :

"In almost every program there was at least one person with whom I had an wonderful encounter. In Rotterdam the first person to come up to talk to me was a Maoist from Afghanistan. He grasped my hand tightly and wouldn't let go. He said, `I am honored to meet you, I have been waiting to meet you.' He told me he had read Dispatches and that the pages of his copy are stained with his tears. He then told me he and others had translated many parts of Dispatches and that they have been distributed in Afghanistan. He said, `Yes, if you go to Afghanistan, people there know who Li Onesto is.' All this was very exciting to hear--that the theory and practice of Maoism is being spread among these revolutionaries who are facing a hugely challenging situation. The comrade also told me how much the Revoutionary Worker is appreciated. He told me people have translated various RW articles and distributed them in Afghanistan and he said they have been amazed at how accurately the RW has described and understood the situation in their country.

"There were many other examples of people who were eager to come to the program after reading Dispatches . I was glad to see how the series has provided a real window into the People's War in Nepal--a way for people to get the truth about what this revolution is all about and why it should be supported. And it was good to hear how the Revolutionary Worker is appreciated by many people in other countries--like the comrades from Kreuzberg in Berlin who said they really rely on the RW for news and analysis."

Provocative Questions

In every city people raised interesting and sharp questions and comments from different points of view : What kind of changes took place in the Party with the start of armed struggle? What is the aim and target of the Maoist New Democratic Revolution and what will it lead to? Would the Maoists in Nepal really build a better society? What role do base areas play? How are the revolutionaries in Nepal struggling against the caste system? How does the world situation impact on the People's War in Nepal? How are the Maoists carrying out the agrarian revolution? What role do the national minorities play in the revolution? How does the party carry out mass political education? Do the Maoists in Nepal think they can win--and if they do could they really hold on to power?

Li Onesto's presentation on the current situation talked about how, in the name of the "global war on terrorism," many countries, including the U.S., UK, India, China, Russia, and Belgium are giving political support and military aid to the reactionary Nepalese regime. And this provoked discussion about the threat of foreign intervention and the importance of building solidarity with the People's War in Nepal.

In every city there was lively dialogue, sharp debate and sharing of revolutionary experiences and more than once, the conversation continued over a late night dinner at a Turkish restaurant.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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