The forward march of humanity is making great strides in Nepal. It is a relatively small and very poor feudal kingdom high in the Himalayas, but the people of Nepal have risen up in a resolute struggle to overthrow the reactionary Nepalese regime. Such are the successes of this armed struggle, led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN(Maoist)), that the insurgents now control the majority of the countryside, and are throwing the regime into disarray.
In the mid 18th century, Nepal came under the rule of the Ranas, a family of feudal overlords that dominated the monarchy for two centuries. The Ranas were aided in their despotic rule by British imperialism, which was keen to isolate and neutralise the military strength of Nepal. In return for support for their backward rule, the Ranas helped Britain to cut the formerly strong ties between India and Nepal. The Nepalese people were isolated and crushed, and the British army gained a steady supply of Ghurkhas.
The rule of the Ranas was ended in 1951 when an alliance of anti-Rana groups and the king restored the sovereignty of the crown with considerable popular support – such was the suppression of the people under the Ranas. A government was formed by the Nepalese Congress Party, containing anti-Rana rebels, but effective power was held by the king.
By 1959, a multi-party constitution was adopted, establishing a so-called ‘constitutional’ monarchy, but, when the Nepalese Congress Party was elected under the leadership of BP Koirala, the king promptly suspended parliament.
Since then, there has been constant jostling for power between kings and would-be parliamentary rulers. In the brief periods when some democratic gains have been made and the would-be parliamentary rulers have actually ruled, their office has been marked by short term measures designed to increase their own wealth and hegemony. Whether ruled by king or by parliament, the ordinary people of Nepal have remained extremely poor, ground down by the greed of the ruling classes.
Nepal is the twelfth poorest country in the world, and life expectancy is short, approximately 58.5 years for men and 57.5 years for women – one of the few countries where women have a lower life expectancy than men, such is the grinding poverty and harshness of the existence of the common people, coupled with the extra feudal burdens carried by the Nepalese women.
That Nepal is so poor and economically backward is entirely due to imperialism. Without the prop of imperialist ‘aid’, ie, meddling and control, the reactionary monarchy (feudal to the core in spite of its claims to be a constitutional monarchy) would long since have faded into history, and the people of Nepal would have been able to develop their agriculture and industry.
Why is imperialism so interested in this small, poor country? Why will it not leave Nepal in peace to develop, as the Nepalese people wish it to?
In the era of imperialism, every barren rock is coveted by the imperialists in their striving for hegemony. What mineral treasures might be discovered beneath it? What strategic importance might it assume at some time in the future? Each imperialist power wants it for its own. And, ‘remote’ in the Himalayas as it is, Nepal is far from a barren rock and, quite apart from its proximity to such a large and significant country as India, it is positioned ideally to be part of imperialism’s – particularly US imperialism’s – strategy of encircling China.
Britain has a long history of imperialist brigandage in the Indian subcontinent and continues to use to the full its historical ‘connections’ with Nepal, while US imperialism doesn’t feel the need of any excuse to be meddling everywhere. India also supports the Nepalese government, manoeuvring to keep as much influence as it can, wary of the activities of US and British imperialism in its ‘back yard’. It is interesting to note that in the ‘back yard’ of the US it is forbidden for anyone (including the people that live there) to do anything not sanctioned by US imperialism. The US, on the other hand, feels it has the right to be meddling in everybody’s back yard – and their front garden as well.
It is also notable that while imperialist ideologues prate dishonestly ad nauseam about human rights, they do not give much mention to the situation in Nepal. The Nepalese monarchy or parliament can carry out as many human rights abuses as they choose, so long as appropriate lap-dog service is rendered to imperialism!
The current king, Gyanendra, came to power following a bloody massacre in 2001. His brother, King Birendra, was shot down in the royal palace, along with most of his family. The story put out was that a deranged son had carried out the shootings and then also shot himself. There is widespread belief, however, that Gyanendra was behind the whole affair. It is also believed that Gyanendra had the support of the imperialists, who were dismayed at Birendra’s ‘lenience’ towards the Maoist insurgents. It was hoped that Gyanendra would be more draconian. And he has been.
This royal drama put Nepal in the headlines for a while, but it was just a fight within the ruling classes. The real progress of history was being determined not in the palace but by the Nepalese people under the leadership of the CPN(Maoist).
In 1996, the CPN(Maoist) began an insurrection in the rural areas, with bases in remote valleys. This has now spread so that the insurgents control most of the country. What are the ruling classes to do? King Birendra’s relatively soft approach, presumably designed not to throw more people into the arms of the guerrillas, was unable to hold down the military advance of the insurgents. So King Birendra was wheeled out and King Gyanendra was wheeled in, with ramped up military support and arms supplies from the US, Britain, Belgium and India.
Even with this new tough approach, and with many more resources, the Royal Nepalese Army and the Nepalese police were unable to defeat the guerrillas militarily. What’s more, their draconian actions against guerrillas and civilians turned out to be an excellent recruiting sergeant for the guerrillas! Then, at the beginning of February this year, Gyanendra dismissed parliament, declared a state of emergency and proceeded to be even more draconian.
US and British imperialism were of the view that negotiations were now the order of the day. They do not want an outright victory for the CPN(Maoist) insurgents and with negotiations there is always the possibility for fudge and manoeuvre. An article in Lalkar of March /April 2005 puts it well:
“It thus became clear to imperialism some time ago that if it was to advance its interests in Nepal, King Gyanendra was probably not the best vehicle for achieving this.” The article goes on to quote from the Independent of 5 February 2005 as follows: “Diplomats from Britain, the US and India have been trying to persuade the King that there is no military solution to the Maoist insurgency, and that he has to cut a deal with the Maoists.”
Lalkar points out two insuperable obstacles to King Gyanendra seeing the good sense in this imperialist advice, such are the contradictions and differing interests within the ranks of the reactionaries. Firstly the CPN(Maoist) is putting forward the demand for the end of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic. Second, the core of its programme is redistribution of land to the peasants, and the king is the major landowner. Lalkar says:
“Not surprisingly, the King can see no point in negotiating with the guerrillas. It is therefore quite possible that his coup may well have been provoked by his suspicion, almost certainly well founded, that his imperialist backers were preparing to sacrifice him in such negotiations. His coup was intended to ensure that he could not be sidelined, and to tell the imperialists that they will have to choose between either continuing to back him in his futile attempts to defeat the people’s movement or to abandon him, in which case the Maoist victory will be considerably hastened. For the imperialists, it is a lose-lose situation that they are unlikely to accept.”
Britain and India announced that they would cease to supply arms during the emergency. The US just said that no supplies were actually in the pipeline. On 29 April, Gyanendra lifted the emergency. The Indian Prime Minister announced that arms supplies would resume, but confusion and uncertainty in the Indian parliament followed. The US wanted to continue putting pressure on Gyanendra. The US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, Christina Rocca, visited Nepal at the beginning of May. Her message was that political detainees should be released and “civil rights restored” to face the “increasingly existential threat” from the Maoist insurgents.
While all this bickering among the reactionaries is going on, the war being waged by the people of Nepal against the despotic regime of the Nepalese monarchy is going from strength to strength. The CPN(Maoist) is demanding a republic and is clearly in the leadership of the democratic revolution. Not only does it have the support of the peasantry, it can also call general strikes in the towns, including the capital, Kathmandu.
Nepal is not only of interest to the imperialists. Working and oppressed people the world over are enthused by the heroic Nepalese people’s achievements in their anti-imperialist struggle to throw off the shackles of feudal oligarchy and repel its imperialist backers.
Victory to the Nepalese people!
Death to imperialism!