Revolution in South Asia

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Nepal: When the enemy’s army enters the people’s base camp

Posted by redpines on April 12, 2012

Peter Tobin writes from Nepal about the recent takeover of the PLA cantonments by the reactionary army. His comments originally appeared at Democracy and Class Struggle.

This decision of the party establishment indicates either stupidity or treachery

by Peter Tobin

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I am among the many international supporters of the Nepalese revolution. Ever since the UCPN(M) took the heroic decision in 1996 to launch the People’s War we have watched in astonishment as this party made an important and unique contribution to proletarian history when it appeared that globally communism was on the retreat. The Soviet Union, in Comrade Castro’s words had: “committed suicide’ and China had decisively become state capitalist and so there was no socialist support base to turn to.

Everywhere it appeared that capitalism was triumphant and yet against this tide of reaction Nepalese comrades stood up and launched the first communist revolution of the 21st century. That a small, landlocked country in SE Asia within a matter of years would become the crucible of revolution, that would set an example to oppressed people everywhere was inspirational.

Let us be clear the odds against success were formidable, starting from a small guerilla band in the west of Nepal, where exploitation was most intense and multi-faceted, it transformed into a professional, battle-hardened army that consistently bested the much larger and better armed RNA, even after it was further swollen after 2002 by American dollars. By 2005 it controlled 80% of the country with the RNA confined to the urban areas.

Without the PLA the systems of dual power, people’s courts, expropriation of feudal lands &c could not have survived. Just as the bourgeoisie have a repressive apparatus which protects and guarantees their class interests then so must the proletariat have an armed wing to defend and extend its interests. As Mao put it:

“Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun.”

Nepalese comrades always understood and applied this maxim and it is a plain fact that without the PLA, without the sacrifices of its combatants and supporters among the people nothing could have been achieved. Nepal would still be living under a despotic, feudal monarchy in thrall to Indian and increasingly American imperialists in an unchallenged neo-colonial dependency.

That is why the status quo parties and their foreign backers have been so remorseless in first trying to destroy and failing that to dissolve or dilute the PLA. What they could not win on the battlefield they have sought to gain at the negotiating table or through clandestine ‘gentlemens agreements’ with an increasingly compliant party establishment.

This last scenario appears to be most likely as we have been softened up progressively in the last year seeing the gains and systems of dual power eroded and dismantled culminating in the awful decision yesterday to hand the cantonments and the weapons to the NA and to put the ex-PLA combatants effectively under a form of military arrest.

It is a military and political axiom that weapons are never surrendered before the war is over. Protracted People’s War did not end in 2006, the armed phase was suspended and the struggle re-located to the terrain of the political as a tactical move to enable the urban masses to be brought into the revolution.

Thus this decision of the party establishment indicates either stupidity or treachery. It certainly makes the task of enacting and implementing an ‘anti-imperialist, anti-feudalist constitution more difficult if not impossible.

And to see NA soldiers entering the cantonments fingers on triggers prior to taking charge of the weapons containers symbolizes a dramatic set-back for the Nepalese revolution and the aim of building Naya Nepal.

Peter Tobin

11th April 2012

6 Responses to “Nepal: When the enemy’s army enters the people’s base camp”

  1. Ka Frank said

    By claiming that the Nepali Maoists launched the “first communist revolution of the 21st century,’ Tobin is blind to the existence of a protracted people’s war led by the CPI (Maoist) in neighboring India that is growing politically and militarily in the face of relentless attacks by the Indian state.

    Tobin is deluded when he claims that the “Protracted People’s War did not end in 2006,” the “armed phase” was just “suspended.” If the PLA had retained its bases in the countryside and negotiated ceasefires with the Nepal Army (as the Chinese Communist Party did on many occasions in its war of national liberation), those would have been “suspensions” of the armed struggle. But that is not what happened. 19,000 members of the PLA left their bases, entered cantonments scattered throughout the countryside, and locked up their weapons under lock and key under the watchful eye of the UN and the much larger Nepal Army. The revolutionary forms of organization in the liberated areas were dismantled while the Prachanda and Bhattarai sections of the UCPN (Maoist) played parliamentary politics with reactionary parties that gained nothing for the oppressed and exploited of Nepal. This is what political and military capitulation looks like.

    Tobin, like Kasama until fairly recently, essentially argues that ending the people’s war was necessary in order to “enable the urban masses to be brought into the revolution.” Kasama argued for several years that this strategy, which was allegedly leading to an insurrection in Kathmandu under Prachanda’s leadership, was an “anti-dogmatic” breakthrough from prior Maoist thought. In fact, revolutionary experience in countries such as Nepal, India and the Philippines, in which 70-90% of the population reside in the countryside, indicate that protracted people’s war based in the rural areas is the main form that revolution takes, with support from the cities, which becomes increasingly important as the people’s war advances closer to the cities. With this understanding, it was all the more criminal that Prachanda and Bhattarai ended the people’s war in 2006 when 80% of the countryside had been liberated and the coordination of armed struggle in the area around Kathmandu there was a pressing question.

    The good news that significant numbers of PLA members are demanding their “voluntary retirement” funds, denouncing corrupt commanders who are supported by Prachanda and Bhattarai, and are leaving the cantonments. Hopefully, they will be an important part of the revolutionary regroupment that is going on in the UCPN (Maoist), YCL and mass organizations.

  2. Ka Frank said

    There is a comprehensive listing of materials from the UCPN (Maoist) and the CP of India (Maoist) on, as well as materials from many other Maoist parties and organizations.

  3. redpines said


    Yes, many Western revolutionaries supported the decision of the UCPN(M) to end the people’s war and the attempt to seize state power through urban insurrection–as did many revolutionary militants in Nepal. It was a popular decision, even among those in the base areas. So far, the tactic has failed, it’s true. Was it worth the attempt? We will see. It will be a valuable experience to sum up–and hopefully provides lessons for another serious attempt by those involved in the current revolutionary regroupment.

  4. Ka Frank said

    Red Pines,

    I think you are missing the fact that Prachanda and Bhattarai never mobilized the party and its mass organizations in Kathmandu with the goal of seizing state power through insurrection. The large demonstrations they called for, which included bringing the masses led by the party in the areas around Kathmandu into the city, were pressure tactics aimed at gaining more concessions (and turns as Prime Minister) for Prachanda and Bhattarai in their game of parliamentary politics. The overseas supporters of the decision by the UCPN (Maoist) led by Prachanda to end the people’s war in 2006, which included Kasama, always assumed that it was meant to prepare for insurrection in Kathmandu. There was never any evidence that this was the case.

    In addition, if the UCPN (Maoist) had actually built towards and attempted to launch an insurrection in Kathmandu in the years after 2006, it would have been ruthlessly crushed by the 90,000 strong Nepal Army. Whatever arms the Young Communist League and mass organizations may have had would have been no match for the NA. The 19,000 fighters of the PLA holed up in the cantonments, whose arms were locked up under UN supervision, would have been prevented from joining in the insurrection as an armed force. Even if some of them had broken out of the cantonments, they would have had to be re-armed, which would have taken time.

    This 6 year long experience with the disarming of a revolutionary army–ending in total, miserable capitulation as Prachanda and Bhattarai have called on the NA to enter the cantonments– can be summed up politically, particularly in opposition to the continuing revolutionary struggles in India and the Philippines. In a country such as Nepal where as much as 90% of the population lives in the countryside, protracted people’s war is the correct strategy. Armed insurrection in Kathmandu and the other significant cities only becomes possible as the revolutionary army has liberated most of the countryside and approaches the cities. At that point, coordinated political and military work, leading to the seizure of state power in Kathmandu, would become necessary and possible.

  5. siva said

    It is true that armed struggles have, at times, to take a pause. But that is not to abandon the struggle and instead to consolidate what has been won and to create fresh political alignments that would reinforce the revolution.
    Much of the support from the revolutionary forces within Nepal for the peace process would have been on that basis.
    External supporters of struggles generally tend to go along with local decisions. Many who had doubts did not speak out probably because they did not want to discredit the Maoist leadership.
    But the Indian Maoists spoke out. Although the acrmony could have been avoided, the criticism of the line taken by Bhattarai & Dahal was valid.
    To call a repackaging of the parliamentary path revolution or socialism for the new century did not go well with even those who supported the ‘strategy’ of peace.

    Let us forget all guesswork about all likely good intentions and hidden strategies and look at the reality. The revolution has been betrayed. (That it has been let down will be a bad undersatement).
    This is not the first a revolution to be betrayed in human history. But what is sad is that it has happened when it was in the verge of success.
    Taking control of Kathmandu would have required preparation and there could not be a fixed timetable for it. What the revelotion could have done was to build strong people’s power around the capital and create a situation where the reactionary regime became unrtenable.
    Also there was need for political education of the masses, which consolidation of rural power would have helped.

    Let us think positively. The revolutionary forces are much alive. The masses do not approve of the reversals. The loss of credibility of the Party that is a major difficulty.
    The task is to regain that credibility through internal struggle or build a credible option.

    Let Bhattarai and Dahal be parts of a bad dream out of which a New Nepal should shake out.

  6. amanezca said

    “The future is bright, the road is tortuous” was one of Mao’s oft-quoted sayings giving hope to those engaged in protracted revolutionary struggle over several decades in China. The revolution in Nepal is no exception. We can take China as an example of sorts: the Communist Party had aligned itself with Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists due to orders from the Comintern in the 1920s. Then, thousands of communists were murdered in 1927 when a civil war was instigated by nationalists against the reds. After this, the Chinese communists retreated to the countryside and linked up with remaining forces among the peasantry to re-start the struggle from scratch.

    Every revolution is unique and so we shouldn’t mechanically map the experience of China or Russia or Nepal onto each other. But we need to recognize that revolution is not and cannot advance in a linear way, there will be steps backward as there have been in Nepal. The thing that should inspire revolutionaries worldwide about Nepal’s situation is that there seems to be a good chance that revolution-oriented forces among the people, including in the UCPN(M), are regrouping to restart that struggle. In some other places, it seems that some revolutionary struggles are declining or stagnating after they hit setbacks/betrayals — so it is inspiring to see forces now in Nepal stepping up to continue with revolution.

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