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More Mao Than Thou: What the Hell Is Happening in Nepal?

Posted on Sep 1, 2010
AP / Altaf Qadri

Supporters of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) dance to a patriotic song as they block a road in Katmandu.

By Reese Erlich

(Page 2)

Another Maoist guerrilla leader elaborated. “There is zero chance of returning to guerrilla war,” he told me. “But there may be general strikes and other unarmed popular uprisings.”

That constitutes such a deviation from Maoist dogma that Avakian and some others in the international Maoist movement denounce the Nepalese as reformists. “Avakian hates us,” chuckled Pasang, who didn’t seem too worried.
The traditional parties and Maoists sharply disagree on several key issues, which have paralyzed the government for months. The peace accords called for integrating the security forces but didn’t specify how.

The Maoists demand full integration of the two armies from the officer corps to enlisted personnel. That would radically reshape the army, of course.

The army argues it will accept only individual recruits. “There is no point imposing that kind of unnecessary restriction on this army,” Brig. Gen. Ramindra Chhetri told me.


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Analyst Jha said party leaders have discussed possible compromises. In one scenario, most of the guerrillas would go home while 5,000 to 8,000 join the army, police and other security forces. “I think what they (Maoists) need is a respectable, honorable deal on integration,” he said.

Another major disagreement is on writing the new constitution. The Maoists said they want genuine democracy.

The Maoists no longer believe in a one-party state as existed in the Soviet Union or China, according to Pasang. Instead, Nepal would have direct, popular elections for president and a bicameral legislature. Other “anti-imperialist” parties could run in those elections.

Brig. Gen. Chhetri. © 2010 Reese Erlich

“If another party won fair elections for president or won a majority in the legislatures, the other party would rule and the UCPN (Maoist) would run in future elections,” according to the guerrilla leader I interviewed.

The Maoists continue to advocate socialism but are quite vague when it comes to describing what kind of socialism. Pasang casually mentioned the economic reforms in China, but refused to offer any examples of successful socialism operating in the world today.

Accepting the idea of genuine competing parties is a radical shift from Maoist dogma. But what the Maoists see as new thinking, the opposition sees as communist dictatorship. After all, they argue, who gets to determine who is an “anti-imperialist” party?

Magazine editor and political analyst Kanak Dixit cited as evidence the Maoist draft constitution submitted to the Constituent Assembly.

“It’s a draft constitution for a People’s Republic of Nepal,” he told me. “The judiciary is kept under control of the legislature. Press freedom is curtailed if you go against nationalism.”

Other analysts said the Maoists have put forward demands but will compromise later on. Jha said the Maoists have already made tremendous changes and “are slowly becoming entrenched in the established political culture of the country.”

Nepal holds important lessons for resolving guerrilla insurgencies whether in Palestine, India or Colombia. Those in power always denounce insurgents as terrorists. But those rulers are really worried about losing economic and political control. The real question is: What kind of society would the insurgents build and can they do it with majority support?

In the case of Nepal, the Maoists have not yet put forward realistic plans for radical economic and political change that will sustain popular support. They have broken with some of their past dogma but are held back by the rest.

Will Nepal break the stranglehold of military and corrupt party rule? Can the Maoists win popular support through fair elections and establishment of democratic institutions?

Stay tuned. The next year may provide the answers.

Foreign correspondent Reese Erlich recently reported from Nepal. His new book, “Conversations With Terrorists: Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence and Empire,” comes out Sept. 14. See

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By Dennis, September 4, 2010 at 7:10 am Link to this comment
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The crown prince did not kill the royal family. It was the king’s nephew, Paris, who killed them allowing his father to become king. Everyone in Nepal knows this but, of course, is too afraid to say it in public. I understand the king’s daughter was shot in killed in the middle of the tourist area, Tammel, in fact. Paris has been heard to brag about the killings in the Everest Casino where he frequently goes. So the writer of this artical knows very little about Nepal and certainly has not talked much to the its people.

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By Chris, September 3, 2010 at 8:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The writer seems to have no knowledge about Nepal. though he claims to have visiter and interviewwd some people from Nepal. Who said Maoists have changed? They were, are and will be terrorists for ever. They are still looting people, intimidating them, raping women in villages,conducting nude bars and prostitutions and killing innocents, as they used to do in the past. The only difference is: in the past, they were hidden and were not exposed to public but today, they are well exposed to public and conducting these things freely. They claim (Kali Bahadur Kham, a maoist central leader after killing few innocent people) no police or law of Nepal is abe to catch and punish them.

I suggest the author to please first know the details about the subject matter and then publish in such respectable papers. Do not just jot down your words just to get some money. Thanks.

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By Tex Shelters, September 3, 2010 at 6:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Unlike the first poster, I understand that you can report on a political movement and not be a fan of it. Frankly, I didn’t sense admiration for the politics of the Maoist party in Nepal, but the an admiration for their success, so far.

In Colombia when the ELN (Colombia’s second largest guerrilla force after the FARC) dozens of their candidates were murdered by right wing paramilitaries and the army, including presidential candidates. That led the ELN to take up their arm once again.

Let’s hope that this doesn’t happen in Nepal and that they have peaceful elections and Democracy.

What’s the difference between an oppressive Monarchy and a dictatorship. Not much dear posters.

Tex Shelters

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By Om, September 2, 2010 at 8:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There was never a dictatorship in Nepal and will never be. The writer seems to be like a horse made to see straight only by blocking the sides of its eyes. You seems to a fan of Stalin, Musolini, Hitler, Polpot, and so on. Nepal maoists wanted to be the above mentioned people but could not. Maoists have killed innocent, illiterate and poor people in Nepal. They have tortured people like Uday Hussain did in Iraq. Nepalese Maoists will never be a political party rather they were/are/will be terrorists only. Non of the communist leaders of the world have done anything acceptable to his people rather they have exploited in the name of being the friend of poor. Communists are never to be trusted, THEY ARE ONLY PROBLEM CREATORS, THEY NEVER SEE GOOD OF OTHERS. Communism was founded by Karl Marks in Germany some centuries before and had failed already, but some unworthy people of the world are trying to use it to exploit the common innocent people. You can take the example of North Korea, the common people are starving and the Dictator is developing Nuclear weapons. So, this is the fate of a communist country.

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By Napolean DoneHisPart, September 2, 2010 at 4:44 pm Link to this comment

The title reads:

More Mao Than Thou: What the Hell Is Happening in Nepal?

To ponder an answer:  Imperial Colonialism ( the legal ownership of people and land ).

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By UreKismet, September 2, 2010 at 2:06 pm Link to this comment

Capitalism - when the royal family of homicidal parasites demand money with menaces, that is called taxation but when the elected government does, that is called extortion.

Nobody expected the change to be easy especially after the years of corrupt oppression by nepals ‘nobles’ but maybe things would have gone a little better if army chief Chhatra Man Singh Gurung had kept his word on the integration of the Maoist Army.
Those experienced fighters will continue to be a problem if they are left unemployed and unpaid.  It is little wonder that some have become ‘entrepreneurial’ when one considers the years of hardship they endured to win a war and be robbed in peacetime.

Chhatra Man Singh Gurung’s deceit will be the cause of much misery, meanwhile I’m sure amerikan capitalists will seek to blame the revolution for failings caused by their interference just as england’s failed assassination of Lenin which left him too damaged to keep control leaving Stalin to ascend has always been blamed on the russian revolution rather than the foreign interference which caused it.

When will amerikan politicians, media outlets, and nosey parkers confine themselves to their own concerns ie what is happening in the murderous, corrupt and decadent state of amerika?
You do realise an entire generation of young amerikans is about to be lost to mainstream amerikan society?  The youth unemployment rate in amerika is now at a level that means even a highly geared, and therefore ‘expensive’ pump priming intervention will push most young people leaving education now, outside the mainstream for the duration of their lives?

I have worked in labour market intervention in other economies where there has been no meaningful employment for adolescent school leavers and the common thread that ran through those situations in otherwise diverse societies, was that if people aren’t offered a spot at the table in adolescence, they will learn to live outside in their own sub culture.
They don’t come back when the economy picks up, well most don’t.  Reject a young person and they don’t just ‘get over it’.  They get angry, then they get even.

The only positive is the amerikan corporates have attached so much consumerist crap to each human in the military, starting a war with some other nation quietly going about its business, and throwing all the youth of amerika into the army is no longer a viable option.  It would be cheaper to send the entire youth of amerika to ivy league colleges than put em all in the military. 

What does that say about corporate welfare?

Meanwhile get on with fixing yer own clapped out mess.
The rest of us can deal with our own shit in our own way.

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By Ralph21, September 2, 2010 at 7:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Obligatory Right Wing Comment: It’s Obama’s fault!

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By Louis Proyect, September 2, 2010 at 5:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Maoists also stand accused of human rights violations, including forcible conscription, recruiting child soldiers, seizing property of local landlords…


Seizing property of local landlords? A human rights violation? Hah-hah. That’s really funny.

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By NepStar, September 2, 2010 at 3:29 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The political situation is much more dynamic - I feel that the maoist party no longer care for their political alignment or their previous rhetoric. All they care about is making money - they are no longer a ultraleft wing or a terrorist party. They are nothing more than a Mafia who have a license to anything they wish, wielding a weapon in name of their militia. The militia which even the Maoist leadership knows is rustic and good for nothing. All they want to do is milk money out of the country as long and as much as they can.

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By Erst Wyle, September 2, 2010 at 2:39 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As a Westerner running a business in Nepal for the last 25 years I have had to deal with Maoist extortionists on many occasions. The fact this party has degenerated into a Mafia that forcibly extorts money from countless Nepalis deserved mention in this otherwise balanced article.

The election that got the Maoists a plurality was neither free nor fair. Coercion & threats were rampant, despite what the Carter Center might say. Jimmy made a fool of himself by visiting scenic Patan on election day and declaring all to be well. It was anything but, and when presented with hard evidence he refused to listen. He was clearly only interested in hearing what he wanted to hear.
  Same goes for the UN mission. The Maoists have turned them into puppets, while the gov’t is now asking them to leave because they’ve been so one-sided.
  The Maoists will never change their violent ways, and now most Nepalis have figured this out. Their support has plummeted and if there are ever free elections in the future ( a big if) the Maoist party will be reduced to a minor player.

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By last_boy_scout, September 1, 2010 at 11:37 pm Link to this comment

Unfortunately the problem there is deeper than the
simple politics-inspired clashes between Maoists and
Marxists. Aside from the religious aspects (google for
“Council of Baptist churches of North-East of India”
for more details) these event originate from the 50s
and the times of protectorship, which led to the modern
vaccum of power (http://eastwest-

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