Maoists seek a democratic Nepal
14th of December 2002, Washingtontimes,
Baburam Bhattarai, 48, the No. 2 leader of the Maoist insurgents now battling the 234-year-old monarchy in Nepal, was interviewed by e-mail on Dec. 7 by Chitra Tiwari, a Washington-based analyst of international affairs and former political science lecturer at Tribhuvan University in Katmandu. Mr. Bhattarai, a member of the Politbureau and head of the International Department of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, scanned an accompanying signature and attached it to his replies to confirm their authenticity. Top Stories
Question: Please tell me little bit about yourself, how you entered politics and what motivated you to start the armed uprising in a country so tranquil the world knew it as a Shangri-La?
Answer: We believe persons are mere products of historical necessity and occur as a matter of chance. It would therefore be better if we could focus more on the party, the policy and the issues rather than the individual.
As per your query about my individual background, you can take me as a typical representative of a Third World educated youth of peasant background, who finds the gross inequality, oppression, poverty, underdevelopment and exploitation of the overwhelming majority of the population in a class-divided and imperialism-dominated world just intolerable, and grasps Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as the best scientific tool to change it positively.
About the question of "armed" uprising by the oppressed masses, let us not forget that throughout history it is the exploiting ruling classes who have exercised exclusive monopoly over arms and the army, and it is just logical that the exploited now take up arms to disarm the exploiters. The so-called Shangri-La has merely been a misnomer, where the oppressed and exploited majority have meekly tolerated the inhuman brutality and violence of a handful of kings and priests for ages. You would surely agree that the silence of the graveyard is not peace and tranquility. It is now high time that this age-old violence and terror against the toiling majority be ended and a real "Shangri-La" be created in the lap of the mighty Himalayas. The revolutionary movement spearheaded by the CPN (Maoist) just aims at that.
Q: The situation in Nepal is becoming a matter of grave concern to friends of Nepal abroad. What is your assessment of the current politico-military situation in Nepal?
A: It is good that the international community is now awakened by the ever-intensifying civil war in Nepal, and is showing concern for its just and logical conclusion. The situation is now peaking towards a climax after the fratricidal and regicidal "king," Gyanendra, and his notorious son, Paras, have staged a retrogressive coup d'etat against the supine parliamentary democracy on Oct. 4 and restored autocratic monarchy in the country. This has substantiated our long-held position that the limited democratic rights won after the 1990 people's movement were not enough for a full-fledged democracy, and the real state authority and sovereignty were still vested in the monarchy due to its traditional stranglehold over the royal army, bureaucracy and the economy.
The revolutionary people's movement (which is popularly known as People's War) undergoing for the past seven years has now created a parallel people's power, army, economy and culture in large parts of the country, except the cities, and a situation of strategic stalemate has developed in the overall sense.
In the current triangular balance of forces — namely [among] the monarchists, parliamentary democrats and revolutionary democrats — if the latter two democratic forces are able to mount a joint struggle against the feudal autocratic forces, there are strong chances that democracy will be consummated in the country in the near future.
Q: Do you think mediation by international organizations will help to break the ice?
A: We have always remained amenable to a negotiated settlement of the problem. But it is the feudal autocratic monarchy that has sabotaged all our earlier attempts. The "ice" will be hard to break unless the monarchy is made to realize that its days are now numbered and it has to make a graceful exit from the stage of history.
Our own preference would be to settle the problem internally without any external interference. But if the complexities of the situation, particularly Nepal's specific geostrategic positioning between two superstates, India and China, so dictate, then we would not mind facilitation or mediation of some genuinely neutral international organizations.
Q: Voices are raised within and outside Nepal for a negotiated settlement of the civil war. Are you willing to compromise with King Gyanendra's government to stop the bloodshed in your country and accept constitutional monarchy?
A: It is not the question of our accepting or not the "constitutional monarchy." The recent royal coup has proved beyond doubt that Gyanendra himself is not accepting even the limited constitutional monarchy ushered in by the 1990 political change, and is in favor of an all-powerful autocratic monarchy.
Particularly our friends in the West should realize that the prevailing precapitalist socioeconomic relations in most of the Third World countries like Nepal demand either an autocratic monarchy or no monarchy at all. History has yet to see a real constitutional monarchy in any of the pre-Industrial Revolution society. So how can poor Nepal be an exception?
Q: What are your conditions for a peaceful settlement? How hopeful are you that your demands will be met?
A: Our party, our party Chairman Prachanda and our various publications have time and again stressed that our immediate political agenda is to consummate a democratic republic in the country. Please note that we are not pressing for a "communist republic" but a bourgeois democratic republic. For that we have advanced the immediate slogans of a round-table conference of all the political forces, an interim government and elections to a constituent assembly, which have been increasingly endorsed by an overwhelming majority of the population.
As the constituent assembly is the highest manifestation of bourgeois democracy in history, we fail to understand why anybody claiming to be a democrat should shy away from this.
Q: Concerns have been raised in the United States and other friendly nations that a Maoist takeover will lead to Khmer Rouge-type genocide in Nepal. Hence governments in Washington, London, Brussels, and New Delhi have publicly announced their military and economic help to your adversary. How do you respond to that concern and Western military help to your adversary?
A: First, there is no independent and authentic account of events in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge available so far. Whatever is emanating from the Western media appears to be highly exaggerated to us.
Second, we are no Khmer Rouge but CPN (Maoist), that believe in no blind aping of anybody but in the creative application of the universal law of development of nature and society as embodied in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism to the concrete conditions of Nepal.
We have already summed up our concrete experiences of the democratic revolution so far and named it the "Prachanda Path." We intend to develop it further in the coming days.
The Second National Conference of our Party held last year has already resolved to discard some of the negative and harmful experiences of the international communist movement — particularly those of the Stalin era — and further develop and enrich the positive experiences, especially on the question of mass democracy. Skeptics can go to our numerous base areas and see for themselves how we are practicing democracy among millions of different classes, nationalities, regions, castes and gender.
Third, we would like to appeal to the various governments you have named and those who may disagree with our ideological persuasion to please consider that we are right now making a united fight with the parliamentary democratic forces against the feudal autocratic monarchy to consummate bourgeois democracy in the country.
If the war against the British monarchy in 1648 and against the French monarchy in 1789 was just, how can the war against the equally, if not more, despotic monarchy in Nepal in the 21st century be unjust?
In this context we would like to express our heartfelt thanks to those parliamentarians , intellectuals, media persons and the general masses in the U.S.A., U.K., Belgium and other countries who have opposed their governments' moves to arm the genocidal Nepalese monarchy, and sincerely hope that those governments would see reason sooner than later.
Q: Do you mind telling me the strength and logistics of your People's Liberation Army? How are you financing this army? What is the source of weapons?
A: As you must have noted, we have in recent months carried out highly successful military raids at district and zonal headquarters simultaneously in the Western and Eastern regions by brigade-level formations of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
At the same time we have conducted smaller raids, ambushes, sabotages, etc. in all the 75 districts of the country. We hope this will help you to make an intelligent guess about the strength and logistics of the PLA.
Since ours is a genuine People's War, the people themselves are the real source of our finances. We also collect taxes from businessmen and industrialists, and occasionally seize from banks. As regards the sources of weapons, it is an open secret that our enemy is the greatest source so far. As Mao said, even the foreign powers may supply us via our enemy.
Q: Despite your earlier assurance to tourists, there are reports of Western tourists recently robbed by Maoist guerrillas. Tourism entrepreneurs in both the West and Nepal are worried that the increase in guerrilla activities is likely to disturb the golden jubilee celebration of the conquering of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. Have you changed your policy?
A: Even we were surprised by the media reports that some Western tourists were recently "robbed' by so-called "Maoist guerrillas" in eastern Nepal. It is just impossible that our highly motivated and disciplined cadres would commit such heinous crimes. We have ordered an enquiry and will bring out the real facts soon.
Meanwhile, be assured that foreign tourists are completely safe in our areas, and will be so in future. Our only request is [that] since the tourism business, particularly big hotels and so-called Nature Conservation Areas, are mostly controlled by the ruling Shah-Rana families, foreign tourists should think twice before patronizing them. And naturally there will always be some hazards of getting caught in the crossfire in a situation of raging civil war, for which only one side cannot be blamed.
Q: The U.S. State Department has expressed concern over the security of its diplomatic mission in Katmandu. How safe are U.S. government employees and American citizens from your guerrillas in Nepal?
A: U.S. government employees and American citizens — for that matter all foreign employees and citizens — are completely safe in Nepal. We have no policy of harming or attacking any foreign national unless they are found working against the revolutionary movement with concrete evidence.
As per the action against two Nepalese citizens working in the U.S. Embassy in Katmandu for espionage charges, the party has reviewed the cases and resolved that henceforth, if any such charges are leveled against any such employee, the concerned embassy would be advised before taking any actions. However, we would caution the enlightened American people to beware of the xenophobic propaganda of the U.S. government to hide its nefarious agenda.
Q: In recent statements you have expressed confidence in your victory. In the event of your takeover of Katmandu, what kind of political structure are you thinking to introduce? How would you treat other political parties? Do you intend to compete with other parties in national elections?
A: We have publicly stated our position about the future state and government systems in the 75-point Common Minimum Policy and Programme of the United Revolutionary People's Council (URPC). There we have clearly stressed our commitment to a multiparty system in the future state setup.
Our party is currently engaged in reviewing the past experiences of post-revolutionary societies and developing a suitable model of democracy suited to the requirements of the 21st century. It is thus not only in the current phase of the bourgeois democratic revolution but also in the subsequent phase of socialist revolution that we want to develop a new model of democracy in which people's right to dissent and rebel in an organized form will be institutionalized.
Hence, there is absolutely no basis to suspect and fear that we will impose one-party dictatorship once we assume power in Katmandu.
Q: What is your foreign policy agenda? How are you going to assure New Delhi that a Maoist state in Nepal means no harm to India?
A: We have time and again made it clear that we will have diplomatic and friendly relations with all the countries of the world on the basis of five principles (Panchsheel) of peaceful coexistence — namely mutual respect for each other's sovereignty and national integrity, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality, mutual benefit and peaceful coexistence.
Given the specific geostrategic position of the country sandwiched between the two huge and hostile states of India and China, we will strive to maintain friendly and equidistant relations with the two immediate neighbors.
It is just ridiculous to presume that a state of Nepal's size and strength can inflict by design any harm to giant India, a nuclear power. Rather Nepal has long been a victim of unequal relations with India since the Sugauli Treaty of 1815-16, which will have to be sorted out in a friendly manner.
Q: What would be your policy regarding foreign loans? Do you expect them to continue or do you want to stop the foreign aid to Nepal altogether?
A: By ideological persuasion, we are avowed proletarian internationalists. Hence we have no xenophobic apprehensions to have mutually beneficial economic and other relations with any country or international organizations. In that sense, we would welcome foreign aid and loans which are beneficial to the Nepalese people and their economic development.
Of course, the basic thrust of our economic development policy would be self-reliance and abolition of dependency, which has plagued the country's economy for long. For this we intend to restructure our economic relations with foreign countries and multilateral institutions in a friendly and cooperative manner.