For a few weeks in the spring of 2006, the world paid attention to Nepal, when a coalition of nominally democratic political parties and Maoist rebels united to overthrow King Gyanendra. Then, as talks between the parties and the rebels dragged on, Nepal faded back into its accustomed obscurity.

Gyanendra had seized absolute power in 2005, claiming that the elected government had been unable to deal with the Maoists’ decade-long insurgency. With a long history of power-hungry aristocrats, the Nepalese have reason to worry that the king may yet attempt a comeback. But the rebels, who are consolidating their control over the country, present an even more serious threat to the future of democracy. Able negotiators, the Maoists have backed the political parties into a corner, forcing them to choose between allowing an armed force to enter a government and quickly dominate it or refusing a coalition and taking the blame for the collapse of a peace process. The last general election took place seven years ago and the legitimacy of the democratic party leaders is dubious. Nepal may soon join a very short list of countries – China under Mao Zedong himself, Albania under Enver Hoxha, Cambodia under Pol Pot – that have experienced the dubious benefits of a Maoist regime. How it got to this point is a long story.

Dubious democracy

Half of Nepal’s 28 million people live on hills and mountains, often accessible only after days of walking. The villages that dot its cliffs are as remote as islands in the middle of a huge and hostile ocean. In such terrain, the Maoists had little difficulty over the last decade in evading the Nepali army. A Chinese military man once told me, “A vertical metre is as hard to occupy and defend as a full kilometre of open plain.” In area Nepal is roughly the size of the three Maritime provinces. Bearing in mind that eight of the world’s ten highest mountains (including Everest at 8,860 metres) are within its borders, and multiplying by 1,000 as suggested by my Chinese observer, this quintessential mountain kingdom is a very big country to defend against guerrilla activity.

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Nepal’s northern border is defined by the Tibetan Plateau; its southern frontier has shifted with the political tides. It generates the bulk of its agricultural and industrial wealth from the Terai, the flatlands that occupy the southernmost one sixth of the country adjacent to India. In addition to the Terai, the Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys, protected from the heat and diseases of the plains by a range of mountains and sheltered from the worst of the Himalayan winter, are regions of relative prosperity.

At the end of World War II, Nepal was ruled, as it had been for a century, by the Ranas, a prominent Nepali family that had seized control from the king and established a government of hereditary prime ministers. Monarchs, reduced to virtual house arrest, continued as heads of state but without real power. The Ranas imported European fashions and inventions, but ideas such as national liberation, liberalism and modernity failed to make it across the mountains. A further consequence of Nepal’s geography was its fragmented demographics. Dozens of ethnic groups and languages, further divided by a caste system, rendered nearly impossible the rise of effective popular leaders able to pose an alternative to the Ranas. Peasant rebellions were quickly and ruthlessly suppressed; often the Ranas allowed hunger to do to the work of soldiers as rebellious villages were starved into submission.

Still, Nepal did not entirely escape the upheavals marking the end of European empire in the mid-20th century. Newly independent India, unhappy at the anachronism perched on its border, supported Nepali dissidents gathered under the banner of the Nepali Congress (NC) Party, modelled on the Indian National Congress. A guerrilla war launched in 1950 led to a New Delhi–negotiated ceasefire one year later that restored the monarchy and established a multiparty democracy.

The seeds that have led Nepal to the brink of a Maoist takeover in 2006 were sown in 1951. Eager young Nepali Congress cadres spread the rhetoric of socialism and nationalism and the panacea of a constituent assembly to remote corners of the country, creating expectations for progress and development and introducing a new awareness of Nepal as a state. But the new government entered years of negotiations with the palace, steadily losing ground in several rounds of constitutional negotiations. In opposition, the NC had made calls for a popular assembly to draft a new constitution the centrepiece of its program, but once it was in power the promise was forgotten.

Elections were finally held in 1959, but when an NC majority was returned to office King Mahendra, backed by Ranas who continued to dominate the armed forces and bureaucracy, responded by seizing power, banning political parties and establishing an absolute monarchy. Reformers had promised everything, but changed nothing. Compromising with defeated enemies had allowed the ancien régime to return in greater strength. Democracy had not led to development, or tangible progress. These lessons were not lost on a new generation of young Nepalese.

The next three decades saw the country open to the world even as the monarchy maintained its hold on power. Exotic landscapes and relaxed drug laws made Kathmandu a favoured haunt for hippies, while endemic poverty and an elite quick to adapt to new opportunities made the country a magnet for foreign aid. New money created the kernel of a new middle class, and taxes on a limited manufacturing industry, concentrated in the Terai and Kathmandu, helped fund a broader-based education system.

More young Nepalese travelled abroad for higher education; India’s universities were a popular destination – particularly the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. JNU was dominated by Marxists and Maoists, looking for scapegoats to blame for India’s post-independence failures. For Nepali students, the lectures on imperialism resonated even more strongly than with their Indian hosts – Baburam Bhattarai, chief ideologue of the Maoist rebels, holds a doctorate from JNU. Marx may have known nothing of Nepal, but his description of the bourgeois impact on feudal societies fit well enough:

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors,” and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment.” It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation.1

The Himalayan kingdom had yet to develop a strong bourgeois class, and the “ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors’” and “ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm” were accurate descriptors of their homeland. However, the implications from Marx were that Nepalese communists needed to encourage capitalism as the next step on the road to socialism. This progression has never appealed to revolutionaries: calling workers to the barricades is more exciting than encouraging peasants to take jobs in urban sweatshops. Hence the draw of Maoism, the doctrine cobbled together by Mao Zedong and his Chinese Communist Party: “It can therefore be said that politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed.”2

Mao Zedong Thought holds that the peasantry can serve as the engine for revolution, as long as it is led by a properly disciplined communist party. In the emphasis on a “vanguard party,” Maoism is not unlike Leninism, with the added appeal to Third World revolutionaries of a framework to justify any means – rhetoric, compromise or atrocity – in furthering the revolution. This, along with insightful writings on guerrilla war, has been enough to ensure Mao Zedong Thought’s life past its creator’s death in 1975 and disavowal by China’s post-Maoist leadership.

Nepal’s royal government responded to the post-1960 challenges with token reforms. Members of banned parties were allowed to hold seats in the rubber-stamp parliament, and active suppression waxed and waned. The NC had long since lost its monopoly on dissidence, and was now joined by a range of fractious communist parties, each calling for more radical solutions than the others. Armed uprisings were sometimes backed by India and sometimes opposed, as New Delhi’s strategic interests evolved in a volatile region. In 1989 Indian displeasure with the increasingly autocratic regime of King Birendra, who had succeeded his father in 1972, reached such a level that sanctions were imposed, crippling Nepal’s economy. The rift coincided with the global liberation movement that swept away the regimes of eastern Europe, and in April 1990 bloody protests in Kathmandu forced the King to cede power to the political parties under a deal brokered, as usual, by India. A new constitution was promulgated, drafted by party leaders, legal experts and representatives of the palace, who once again played their hand as a stabilizing symbol to great advantage. The mistakes of 1951 were repeated. Democracy was restored but the palace was left with significant power, and the constitution gave more power to political parties than to the citizens of Nepal.

In 1991 the NC won an absolute majority of seats in the first national election in more than 30 years. While the democratic communists regrouped and won the midterm elections called in 1994, many on the left were alarmed by the parallels with the failed democratic experiment of the 1950s. With an increasingly free press revealing outrageous examples of government corruption, it appeared to many that the country’s leaders were using Orwell’s Animal Farm as a guidebook for governance. There were tangible and significant increases in living standards in Nepal throughout the 1990s, something often forgotten today, but the government obscured its achievements through a combination of obvious failures, unrealistic promises and endless partisan attacks. In the five years between 1996 and 2001 six men served as prime minister, two of them more than once. Each new government promised to transform Nepal into Asia’s Switzerland. Every new road was dismissed as a money-laundering scheme, every village development project as a pretext for hiring party cadres.

Faced with the messy compromises of an emerging democracy and the extra dirt added to the body politic by corruption, some leaders looked for a cleaner path and, following a common if depressing pattern of human behaviour, decided blood was the best cleanser of all. Less than five years after Nepal’s democracy had been reborn, and two years after democratic communists won power through the polls, the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (CPN-M) launched its Peoples’ War on February 13, 1996.

At first the rebels, armed with knives and homemade weapons, were a distraction. But over time they became better organized, better armed and more powerful. Their success owed less to the strength of their popular appeal than to the failings of the government. As the Maoists gained ground, development work was affected and casualties mounted. Village councils in regions under Maoist influence made “contributions” to the Maoists from infrastructure contracts; teachers and others receiving public salaries were subject to tithes. State security forces took often indiscriminate revenge for rebel attacks, increasing public resentment. In an essentially feudal country the opinions of individual Nepalese remained irrelevant, but whatever support had existed for the political parties and their government eroded.

Support for the parties ebbed, but the Maoists’ attacks on infrastructure – including village schools and health clinics – did not endear their cause to the majority. By the time of the ceasefire in early 2006, an estimated US$1 billion in infrastructure had been destroyed. Teachers, civil servants, unarmed police and activists from the mainstream political parties were abducted, often beaten, sometimes tortured or killed. “Social criminals,” including those who were engaged in extramarital sex or conducted funerals without the Maoists’ approval, were punished with sentences ranging from public humiliation to death.

The crumbling foundations of the kingdom

On June 1, 2001, the political foundations of the Hindu Kingdom crumbled when most of the royal family was gunned down in the royal palace, apparently at the hands of a drunken Crown Prince Dipendra. King Birendra, the political survivor and architect of the compromise of 1990, died in the fusillade. His assassin, the crown prince, lived long enough to be crowned king, but he appears to have shot himself and he spent his three-day reign on life support before he too succumbed.

Prince Gyanendra, a businessmen and friend of Britain’s Prince Charles whose hobbies included a cigarette factory and environmental issues, had been out of town on the evening of the massacre. He had touched the crown before when, as a child, the Ranas installed him as king in a last-ditch effort to protect their government just prior to its final collapse. Nepal is rife with conspiracy theories as to who committed the massacre and why, and some believe Gyanendra orchestrated it himself. Nonetheless, on his coronation in 2001, Nepalese treated him with customary reverence.

The new King promised to take an “active” role. Taking a step his late brother had long resisted, he authorized the government’s request to deploy the Royal Nepali Army in the fight with the Maoists. Then he approved a request to dissolve parliament, in preparation for elections that never took place. Next he dismantled Nepal’s elected local governments, among the few democratic institutions to have delivered real results. With effective checks on his power removed, King Gyanendra used a questionable interpretation of the constitution to seize power over Nepal in stages, starting in October 2002 with his dissolution of the elected government and appointment of a replacement cabinet. Over the next two years he sacked a series of prime ministers and presided over a second round of failed peace talks with the CPN-M. Gyanendra’s slow-motion coup reached its logical conclusion in February 2005 when he assumed direct rule over the country. Claiming he needed three years to deal with the Maoists and prepare for elections, he unleashed the army and security forces on both the rebels and the mainstream political parties.

In the aftermath of the April 2006 uprising that swept the King from power, it has been forgotten that these moves were broadly welcomed. There were no protests, and many, especially among the urban elite, hoped Gyanendra could deliver peace where the political parties had failed. Claiming a mantle of Hindu divinity, he cloaked himself in every national myth. Initially there were some successes as the Maoists were driven from the Kathmandu Valley. But through increasingly bloody confrontations with an increasingly well-armed and seasoned enemy, it became clear that a purely military solution to the insurgency was an illusion, and the King’s strategy, which had cost the country its hard-won democracy, had led to another stalemate. Gyanendra further soured elite opinion by engaging in flagrant corruption and nepotism, appointing men instrumental in crushing previous pro-democracy movements to positions as senior advisors while turning the national coffers into an automatic teller machine for the unlimited use of his family and friends.

Alarmed by Gyenandra’s incompetence, India, which had turned a blind eye to his seizure of power, urged the mainstream political parties and the Maoists to join hands. Earlier in the year seven non-Maoist parties, including the NC and Communist Party Nepal – United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), the largest democratic communist party, had come together in an anti-Gyanendra alliance. In Delhi in November 2005, the Seven Party Alliance and the CPN-M signed an agreement that committed them to cooperate in putting an end to the royal regime. But the King’s government refused to compromise, and when the rebels declared a four-month ceasefire in late 2005, he would not reciprocate. Instead, in February 2006 the government conducted local elections, which all the major parties boycotted.

In one year Gyanendra dissipated his personal political capital and much of the traditional authority enjoyed by the monarchy. Excesses by the armed forces – including well-publicized murders of civilians after arguments with soldiers – led not to a reshaping of security tactics but to royal proclamations restricting media freedom and banning criticism of the royal family.

When the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) announced plans for a mass protest in early April 2006, few thought that much would come of it. While the public was increasingly unhappy with the King’s failure to address the country’s problems, the political parties had little credibility. The first two days of demonstrations were better attended than expected, but most of the protesters were young boys.

The security forces’ behaviour during the demonstrations destroyed what was left of the foundations of royal prerogative. Across the country, relatively peaceful protests were broken up with baton charges and tear gas; houses were raided, and people who had nothing to do with the protests were hauled from their homes, beaten and taken into custody. Popular anger was coupled with fear as the security forces had a reputation for brutality – of the estimated 13,000 deaths in the ten-year civil war, more than 8,000 are attributed to government forces.3 Reports of beatings and killings circulated; when one of the first victims of the protests was cremated without his family’s consent in violation of fundamental Hindu tradition, numbers on the street swelled and demonstrations spread across the country. The government instituted shoot-to-kill curfews, lifted them, then imposed them again. The protests built steadily, fuelled by an average of one killing per day. Party leaders, content to leave the streets to teenagers in the early days, began to coordinate activities as the protests grew, helping to maintain order and, belatedly, talking with security forces to prevent misunderstandings that could have led to further bloodshed. In Maoist-controlled regions, the rebels transported whole villages to attend rallies in district capitals in commandeered buses and cars.

On Friday, April 21, the King offered a vague compromise, quickly dismissed by both the SPA and the Maoists. A rally on Saturday attracted hundreds of thousands of people to the Ring Road surrounding Kathmandu. Defying the curfew, protesters streamed past security forces, finally stopping at a police barricade less than two kilometres from a royal palace that had become a fort. Then an unseasonal hailstorm pelted the city, breaking up the demonstration. But Gyanendra could not rely on such acts of God; with pressure mounting from foreign governments and a “decisive” protest looming on Tuesday, Gyanendra went on national television just before midnight on Monday to announce restoration of the 1999 parliament and passage of power to the SPA. Street celebrations broke out across Kathmandu and in other cities. The Maoists called for protests to continue until the King abdicated, but the public was ready to give the new government a chance.

Rapid change followed: the SPA appointed the ailing 83-year-old NC leader, Girija Koirala, as Prime Minister. Within days, the Maoists announced a three-month ceasefire and the government declared an indefinite halt to hostilities. Maoist prisoners were released from detention, the CPN-M was removed from Nepal’s list of terrorist organizations and the rebels opened an office in Kathmandu and began to organize openly in the capital for the first time since 1996. The Royal Nepali Army, still answerable to the King, returned to barracks, followed by the police. The Maoists responded by moving armed cadres into the city in large numbers and redeploying units of the People’s Army from their base areas toward the capital.

An October revolution?

The new government faced a monarch with constitutional control of the army and a Maoist army whose intentions were far from clear. Civilian administration of the countryside had been eroded first by the insurgency and then by the militarization that accompanied the royal regime. Nominally the country’s rulers, the SPA were in fact only one of three sources of power – and the only one without an army. The SPA took power without any structure, leadership or common political platform beyond opposition to Gyanendra. The two major parties, the NC and UML, had spent the previous 16 years at each other’s throats, while the third largest, the Nepali Congress – Democratic (NC-D), had split from the NC in 2002. The four smaller parties had little influence, and included groups with ideologies closer to the Maoists than to the centrist NC.

As peace talks began, the lack of cohesion among the seven parties quickly presented problems. Nepali traditions favour top-down and often unaccountable leadership, which would admittedly have made difficult a broader and more consultative process prior to negotiations with the Maoists. The absence of cohesion among the SPA made it natural for the Prime Minister to act alone, or on the advice of a close circle of family and party advisors. Other party leaders had few confidential avenues for addressing their grievances, resulting in public recriminations between Koirala and other SPA leaders.

The dynamic that weakened the SPA gave strength to the Maoists, who delegated clear authority to their negotiating team, maintained strict confidentiality, and stayed on message. A high-level split in 2005 between Chairman Prachanda and chief ideologue Baburam Bhattarai had been resolved.4 The Maoists entered the peace process with a unified army and political structure, and with an intelligent and sophisticated leadership team operating with a clear mandate.

The Maoists’ demands were clear: the creation of an interim government and constitution that would prepare for constituent assembly elections, and the immediate abolition of the monarchy. The government, internally divided on these key issues, responded with a series of parliamentary proclamations, passed with little or no debate, which acceded to most of the CPN-M’s longstanding political demands. These included placing the military under civilian control, making Nepal a secular state and reserving one third of all government positions for women. Beyond these gestures, the SPA appeared to have no plan to govern, and no strategy to counter the Maoists, who quickly realized that the parties would make nearly any concession to preserve the peace process. By implementing much of the Maoists’ agenda, the SPA gave up valuable negotiating cards. It was clear over the summer that the CPN-M was dictating events. The SPA prepared and presented a budget, and carried on with the routines of running a government, but this just reminded the public that the parties’ words had little in common with their actions.

In May a 25-point ceasefire agreement was signed. While the Maoists routinely violated 15 of the points, criticism was muted as the parties feared alienating the rebels. The CPN-M condemned any government complaint as a violation of the ceasefire, while refusing to acknowledge the violations that had triggered the complaint. Throughout the summer Maoist control of the country solidified. The rebels collected taxes, staffed border and customs posts, and coordinated law-and-order patrols with the police. Reports of extortion skyrocketed, and “Peoples’ Courts,” using the Maoists’ own legal code, expanded to nearly every district, including Kathmandu, in defiance of the rebels’ commitment to dismantle their parallel government. The elites in Kathmandu debate how and when the rebels should disarm, with everyone ignoring the inconvenient fact that the CPN-M has little to gain from giving up its weapons and has shown no inclination to do so.

One of Nepal’s greatest flaws is the disconnect between the capital and the countryside. NGO and political activists living in the countryside are less naive than those in Kathmandu; they know first hand the cost of living under the CPN-M, and have been witnesses and often victims of Maoist harassment, which intensified after the King’s abdication. On the other hand, the Maoists have received uncritical support from many Kathmandu-based human rights and civil society organizations, as well as many in the media and political parties. Kathmandu elites have remained hopeful that the Maoists’ comforting rhetoric is a good guide to their future actions. Because the Maoists had been unable to win a military victory, many argued, they were desperate for peace, looking for a “soft landing.” But in a July 2006 interview, Prachanda did not sound like a leader suing for peace:

We are not taking recourse to this new strategy due to some weakness … People should understand that we have changed our policy not because of some sort of setback but due to the strength derived from the People’s War … Even Lenin was forced to enter into Brest-Litovsk Treaty with Germany at the time of October Revolution. At that time, many in Lenin’s party said that it was like an act of surrender but it was not that. Rather, it was the result of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party, the result of their gaining strength.5

As Maoist excesses increased in the fall, press coverage and urban public opinion became more critical, but this has had little effect on Maoist activities that rely for their legitimacy on the force of arms, not opinion polls. In September, a rumour circulated that the government was moving arms into Kathmandu. In response, the CPN-M implemented a nationwide blockade. In less than one hour they stopped all traffic and brought the capital to a standstill. Barricades of burning tires were lit outside embassies and hotels, guarded by Maoist cadres often joined by the police. When it became clear the rumour was false and no arms were being delivered, the blockade was lifted as quickly as it had been imposed. Three hours later the country was back to normal, but the rebels had made their point.

The mainstream politicians and the national elite appear to have made a fundamental error: they cannot differentiate between democratic politicians and revolutionaries. For any group to take up Maoism as ideology in the 1990s indicates a devotion to ideas divorced from their reputation in the broader world. With Mao’s China and the Cambodian Khmer Rouge serving as successful precedents, and the bloody Peruvian Shining Path as their avowed inspiration, Prachanda and his colleagues are unlikely to strike a conventional compromise, take up plush ministerial offices and drive around Kathmandu in SUVs. Rather than rely on Maoist blandishments, better to take Prachanda at his word. As recently as last August, he described his current tactics this way: “We will have to take a diversion. That’s why our moving forward after reaching an understanding with the liberal faction of the bourgeoisie is being called a transitionary phase by us.”6 There is no reason not to believe him.

The roadmap of this revolution has been laid out in the writings of Mao and expanded in numerous books, articles and interviews with the CPN-M principals. While it is hard to reconcile the roadmap with recent pronouncements of the rebels aimed at an elite and international audience -– they now praise multiparty democracy and claim to have learned that the time is not right to impose a communist state – their actions are consistent with a straightforward progression through the stages of Maoist revolution.

What makes the Nepali revolution unique is that the ruling elite has followed the Maoist script so closely. Far from looking for a soft landing, the Maoists view Nepal in 2006 as a vindication of 70 years of theory: bourgeois parties fail to defend their class interests and fight among themselves, while the unity of the communist party enables it simultaneously to expand its military and political bases. The Maoists are preparing to assume the leadership of the so-called New Democratic revolution, a stepping-stone on the road to socialism that will include peasants, the proletariat, the petite bourgeoisie and capitalist classes. The pragmatism of Maoist tactics does not mean any change to the final goal.

As long as the political parties and civil society organizations contribute to their united front and progress towards the Maoist New Democracy continues, the Maoists will be cooperative. But it is worth reading what Prachanda has prescribed for parties other than his own:

After the Chinese revolution there existed eight political parties in China which did not support feudalism and imperialism. Mao allowed them to continue to work because he wanted them to support the Communist Party … We feel that in order to make a society lively, the proletarian party should also take up the task of organizing competition. It does not mean that we are moving towards bourgeois democracy.”7

Throughout the summer of 2006 the Maoists talked about an October revolution. Historical parallels are often forced and unconvincing, but this one is not. The similarities between Aleksandr Kerensky’s regime that emerged in Russia after the Tsar’s abdication in February 1917 and Koirala’s unstable post-Gyanendra government are simply too striking to be dismissed.

Russians, like Nepalese today, yearned for peace. The spring revolutions in both countries unleashed a wave of optimism that raised the expectations of long-oppressed peoples. Such expectations could not be met by the parliamentary leaders, hobbled by inexperience, hubris and – perhaps most importantly – an underestimation of the ruthlessness of their revolutionary opponents.

Like the Maoists, the Bolsheviks had pressed for a constituent assembly. When the election produced an assembly they did not control, they quickly ensured its dissolution. Prachanda and his cadres are sophisticated politicians and doubtless realize that they would not win a transparent election. But winning elections has never been their goal.

In October, a new round of peace talks began in Kathmandu, focusing on disarmament, the role of the King and other contentious issues. The parties, dismayed at their lack of preparation before previous talks, took greater care in preparing their agenda. But the stakes are now incredibly high. Will the Maoists make real concessions? Will the parties give way and allow the CPN-M to enter the government with its army intact?

If the talks fail, the Maoists are unlikely to walk away. Even failed talks take time and allow them to strengthen the grip of their “People’s Government” on Nepal. If the preparations for the constituent assembly fail completely, they are confident that the SPA will share the bulk of the blame. And if public sentiment turns against the Maoists, they can continue to press their demands with the aid of an army estimated to be 15,000 to 20,000 strong, and a lightly armed militia of another 100,000.

The Maoists have repeatedly said that they do not plan to return to the jungle; if this round of talks does not succeed, they propose to launch an “urban movement” to make sure their demands are met. Again to quote Prachanda: “In case the talks fail, we feel that we will have to take certain steps to address the people’s desperation. You will know about these steps after a week. Let’s keep it a secret for now!”8

If the Maoists launch street protests after a failure of peace talks, the government will be faced with a difficult choice. If it fails to act and anarchy prevails, the Maoists win. If the army intervenes and suppresses the protests, the SPA’s legitimacy will be destroyed and any who oppose the military, and by extension the King, will side with the CPN-M. Again the Maoists win. The fundamental question in Kathmandu, the question no one asks openly, is “What is the price of peace?” For many, any price is worth paying in hopes of ending the civil war. For others, looking at the toll of the Cultural Revolution or the one in five Cambodians killed during three years of Maoist rule, there is worse than war. n


1 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto (New York: Verso, 1998), p. .37.

2 Mao Zedong, “On Protracted War,” Selected Works,Vol. 2 (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1966), pp. 152–53.

3 Ed Douglas, “Inside Nepal’s Revolution,” National Geographic, November 2005, p. 54

4 While the split between Prachanda and Bhattarai was resolved, small ethnically based factions splintered from the party. One of these, the Jantantrik Terai Mukti Morcha, engaged in limited combat with CPN-M forces during the summer of 2006, and in September 2006 killed a member of parliament from the right-wing Rastriya Prajatantra Party.

5 International Nepal Solidarity Network, “Interview by Prachanda with Anand Swaroop Verma,” August 19, 2006. Available online: (accessed October 8, 2006).

6 Ibid. 7 Ibid. 8 Kantipur Online, “Interview by Prachanda with Kishor Nepal,” October 7, 2006. Available online: (accessed October 8, 2006).