This article originally appeared on the Kasama Project here.
The sky stretches on forever here on the rooftop of the world.
Old and new, the foreign and indigenous are the eclectic contradiction which makes Kathmandu. The nagging ease with which a place like Nepal could welcome Western money and culture is apparent. So is its toll, the inevitable price of “help” “or commerce” from India or the West. But just as apparent is the cutting juxtaposition of the pull toward celebration of a Nepal with dignity, its indigenous peoples and their cultures, and its ability to exist without the poisonous assistance of expansionist capital.
Streets can wind on forever here. People, bicycles, motorcycles, and cars are packed into the same centuries-old, dusty lanes. Walls splattered with old dirt, energetic hawkers, and storefronts with wares sit next to the red flags, banners, and posters of communist parties. The very appearance of this place speaks to its ancient, defiant history and the dynamism of insurgent radicalism.
Walking through Kathmandu recalls memories of the cramped avenues of old Mexican cities; streets designed for pedestrians somehow manage to accommodate every imaginable type of vehicle, resulting in some of the most harrowing near-misses and the most phenomenal driving I have ever seen. The car horns seem to speak a language of their own, but it doesn’t take long to realize that honks means “excuse me,” not, “f*** you!”
It is difficult to convey the strange feeling of being constantly surrounded by the presence of hammers and sickles while knowing that the slightest nuances in aesthetic and language signify the difference between capitalist democracy and radical egalitarianism. Then again, Nepal is an enigma: this is a country where “communists” are conservatives, “Unified Maoists” are liberal-Western modernizers, and the “dash Maoists” are revolutionaries. It is easy to understand how so many, looking from the outside, are initially confused.
We have been in the city for a little over two weeks now–learning and watching. Our focus has been on the newly regrouped Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, which is coming from decades of struggle and over a decade of incredibly successful and popular revolutionary People’s War that began in 1996, liberating 80% of the countryside of Nepal at its peak.
We observed their first congress in twenty years and are learning of their new program and direction. They have seen both profound victory and crushing setbacks. The Maoists once held base areas in the countryside where land was re-distributed, where communes were erected, where the people had their own courts and popularly elected government. All of this, in the third-poorest country on the planet where before, only tyranny by corrupt police and a now-overthrown god-King ruled. That overthrow was unquestionably the product of Nepal’s People’s War and the diverse alliance rallied by it. The struggle escalated when Nepal’s Maoists organized general strikes which shut down every major city in Nepal for 6 days. Inherent to these complex experiences are lessons for changing the world in our own conditions.
In recent years, these revolutionaries have suffered both error and betrayal; their base areas are gone, though so is much of the more obvious feudalism. They no longer have an army, and their organization has split: some taking the easy path of reform, of investment, and foreign domination. Others, the revolutionaries of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, have just regrouped, forming a new party as their first step back onto the stage of history. As one of their leaders at their congress said, “We will make a revolution which will shake both heaven and the Earth.“
In new situations come new challenges, new struggles, new possibilities: determined revolutionaries now find themselves struggling not against a monarchy which justifies its rule by divine right, but a regime which legitimizes itself by the gains of the revolution it now seeks to terminate.
While in Nepal, we want to give the world a look into the important events unfolding here, the feelings of the people, and especially to give a sense of who are the partisans, the revolutionary dreamers of Nepal. It is a narrative and a story which is far too seldom heard anywhere. The Maoist movement here is commonly spoken of by decadent and oppressive powers as though it was a mass of violent terrorists. But this is far from the truth. These selfless people are militant abolitionists of the worst forms of oppression.
With revolutionary love,
-Liam Wright and Natalio Pérez with Winter Has Its End
Reports coming soon:
Retaking the Stage: Nepal’s Maoist Congress
After the People’s Liberation Army: Still Won’t Surrender
Women Before, During, and After the People’s War
Interview with Biplab
Electricity in Recession