Scenes from Nepal
The Daring of Revolution, The Shoots of the Future
Revolution #1, May 1, 2005
In 1999 I traveled through the heart of the
Maoist People's War in Nepal, deep into the guerrilla zones
in the districts of Rolpa and Rukum. The Communist Party of
Nepal (Maoist) had been waging armed struggle for three years
and the police, corrupt officials, and greedy moneylenders
had been run out of this area. The people were beginning to
establish a new people's power.
There were mass organizations of women, peasants,
and students, and new people's courts were administering justice.
For the first time women had the right to own land and get
a divorce, land was being redistributed, and peasants mercilessly
cheated by usurers had torn up debt papers. 3-in-1 committees
of guerrilla fighters, party cadre, and members of mass organizations
ran the villages, creating new systems of taxation, laws and
basic commerce, building schools and starting to organize
collective farming. Cultural squads were creating a new revolutionary
These were very fragile shoots and I wondered
if they would survive. The Maoists were trying to establish
base areas. But the police were arresting, killing, torturing,
and raping anyone suspected of being a Maoist or a Maoist
sympathizer, and the guerrillas were poorly armed. There were
already hundreds of revolutionary martyrs and everyone knew
that sooner or later the Royal Nepal Army will be sent against
How could such a poor peasant army have such
fantastic dreams and hopes of seizing power? How could they
dare to challenge a government that was getting weapons from
India--and would almost certainly, eventually, get money and
arms from powerful countries like the United States? Could
these poor, illiterate peasants really get rid of their oppressors,
defy tradition's chains and remake their world?
April 2005. A friend sends me a video, not
yet available in the U.S., "Eight Glorious Years of People's
War"--hours of amazing footage from the liberated base areas,
shot and edited by the Central Cultural De- partment of the
It has been six years since my trip to Nepal,
and the Maoists now control some 80 percent of the countryside.
The People's Liberation Army is able to wage battles against
the Royal Army, involving thousands of guerrilla fighters.
And there are now two governments in Nepal. The reactionary
ruling class has the capital of Kathmandu and runs the cities
and district headquarters. But the Maoists control most of
the vast countryside, where 85 percent of Nepal's 26 million
The U.S., U.K. and India have all declared
that the Maoists must not be allowed to win. And a "war on
terrorism in Nepal" is being used to justify US money, weapons,
and training for a brutal counterinsurgency. The Royal Nepalese
Army has killed many thousands of people and arrested, tortured,
and raped even more. But they have been unable to defeat the
The video takes me back to Rolpa and Rukum,
to the same areas I visited in 1999, and it is deeply moving
and exhilarating to see how things have changed. Over the
years I have thought a lot about the political and military
leaders I met, the guerrillas I traveled with, the families
of martyrs I interviewed--wondering if they have survived.
Now tears well up in my eyes when I actually see in the video
some of these very same people fighting, working, and laughing
in the base areas.
The video's soundtrack transports me back
to Nepal on another level, evoking memories of the cultural
programs I attended, feeling again the passion and spirit
of the new revolutionary culture that has been such a crucial
part of this struggle. The lyrics flash across the screen.
This is the time to give birth to the
This is the time to burst out like a volcano
To the soldiers of the war
To those red stars
Don't be Stopped! Not by anyone!
The video takes me to a massive rally where
the Magar people, an oppressed nationality, are celebrating
the declaration of the new Magrat Autonomous Government.
A close shot of people streaming into the
area. Then the camera zooms back, then back even more and
the camera's eye traverses the rocky terrain, giving a binocular-like
survey of a human procession that snakes across the steep
mountainside for miles. Back in the village there is visible
joy amidst huge red flags. A man playing a drum tied to his
forehead. A dance troupe of girls in traditional costume.
This is a vivid and many-faceted picture
of the People's War. Massive rallies of tens of thousands
of peasants. Speeches by party leaders and military commanders.
PLA training camps. Cultural performances. Revolutionary festivals,
volleyball, and foot races organized in the base areas. And
actual footage from the battlefield--the sights and sounds
of rapid gunfire, back and forth. A voice in the darkness,
"Take cover, don't be afraid. Don't be afraid." Bodies of
dead RNA soldiers. Wounded and dead PLA fighters. Caches of
captured weapons and ammunition.
Segue to revolutionary construction in the
base areas--schools, bridges, even an FM radio station. Text
on the screen informs me that the first day of the month has
been designated as a collective day of labor, and I see PLA
soldiers, party cadre, members of revolutionary cultural troupes,
and villagers working together to haul stones from the river
to build a new wall.
Those who fatten on others' labor have
fled the villages
Those who rule with arrogance have run away
The people's governments are organized in villages
The redness of victory is arising among the people
A custom of working together is established
Nepotism and injustice are eliminated in villages
Caste and untouchability are eradicated
Let us create a new culture and a new society
There is footage from a revolutionary "love
marriage" ceremony. And I think about the young women guerrillas
who told me how women in Nepal are suffocated by feudal tradition.
Not allowed to go to school, subjected to arranged marriages
and polygamy, lives crushed by the thriving sex traffic. Today
in the base areas, a new culture aimed against the patriarchy
and caste system is giving women and men new freedom.
In a liberated village people have gathered
to greet scientists, professors, engineers, and artists who
have come from the city. Suddenly I see a familiar face--a
famous revolutionary writer, his face beaming, his right fist
held in a lal salaam , red salute. I had interviewed
him when I was in Kathmandu. Now he has gone to the countryside,
to the Rolpa base area, to serve the people.
In the villages I visited in 1999, there
were mainly women, young children, and old men. Most of the
men were working in the cities or had been forced underground.
I think about how the 12-year-old girls and
boys I met in the villages are now young men and women, old
enough to join the People's Liberation Army. What has it been
like for them to grow up in a liberated village, in a base
area where there is a new people's power?
A new generation in Nepal is being shaped
by the People's War and, in the base areas, the youth are
growing up as part of the struggle to create a whole new way
of living --seeds of a whole new economic, political, and
cultural life are being planted. And the guns of the People's
Liberation Army are protecting these shoots of the future,
allowing them to grow and strengthen.
Power is won through war
Enhance people's power
This old state is tiring
Let's seize the central power
To those who are advancing, moving heaven and earth
To those who have given their lives to change the face of
Welcome these red people of this new era
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolution
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