Nepal has had a somewhat turbulent past, specifically so in the last 20 years. During this time it has been through a civil war which pitted a Maoist insurgency against the absolute monarchy, as well as witnessing a bizarre royalist shootout, which not only led to the death of half of the royal family, but the end of the monarchy itself.
By the end of this shit show the old had been overthrown and the Maoists were not only the biggest party in parliament, but the whole shebang was dominated by parties that professed a Marxist-Leninist line. So, you’d assume Nepal would have gone all out Democratic republic right? Well not so much so.
To read about why Lebanon is such a mess click here.
A brief history of Nepal
Sandwiches between India and China dodging great power politics was always gonna be an issue for the Nepalese, as fierce fighters they had managed to retain a degree of independence from the British and when India became independent they remained one of three Kingdoms along the Himalayan border with Bhutan and Sikkim.
Sikkim turned out to be an abject failure and after turfing out their king became an Indian state. Bhutan officially at least has been more successful, recently turning from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one. The King famously stated that the Bhutanese measured “Gross Domestic Happiness” rather than Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This has led to the extremely erroneous statement that the Bhutanese are the happiest people on earth. They are not and they also have a huge population of people they refuse citizenship to, as well as a small Maoist insurgency.
Nepal has fared somewhere in the middle. In 1950 it signed a treaty of “friendship” with India, one which some feel amounts to nothing more than suzerainty, but for the large part have remained independent.
Until 2006 at least the country swapped between being an absolute, or constitutional monarchy depending on the whims of the monarch of the time. Many in the country resisted, including both Moscow and Beijing aligned communist factions, but for the large part resistence was led by the Nepali Congress, itself mirrored on and influenced by its larger Indian cousin.
By 1996 though the Unified Communist Party of Nepal led by the enigmatic Prachanda began a “protracted peoples war” to bring about a communist, Maoist state within the country. And things went gangbusters with the insurgents taking over large swaths of the country whilst fighting the corrupt royalist regime. During this period the “opposition” remained largely pacifist while the Maoists rolled on. For a time at least it looked distinctly like Nepal would become a communist state, with the areas under its control at least being run under Maoist lines. Things were then to take a turn for the ridiculous.
The 2005 Royal Massacre in Nepal
Anything with the word massacre in should never be called funny, but this really did take things from the sublime to the ridiculous. At some point we will give this one its own article, but in short nine members of the royal family including the King and Queen were killed in a mass shooting by the crown prince, who then shot himself.
Said crown prince was then declared King while in a coma, before dying and handing the thrown to his cousin Gyanendra, but he not only was not present for the shooting, but all of his family members, including wife and children managed to survive the massacre – a rate smelled.
This has led to numerous conspiracy theories, but whether it was a Machiavellian ploy, or not it meant the end of the monarchy. Peace talks began and instead of being Maoist badasses Prachanda et all settled for the country becoming a republic and taking part in elections. This led to some dissatisfaction from within the fighting ranks, but the choice had been made and elections it would be.
The Maoists win the election
After a caretaker government elections to a Constituent Assembly were held in 2008 with the Maoists winning a massive 220 of the 575 seats available. Now you do not need to be a mathematician to realise that this isn’t a majority, BUT the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist) had come third with 103 seats, as well as a smattering of other socialist, or communist parties also winning seats, so communist revolution? Not so much so.
Prachanda formed a government, which was whacked as soon as he tried to sack the chief of the army – fairly important when you want to torment revolution and then things just carried on pretty much as is for 18 years.
And what have the 18 years brought us? Ironically a string of communist governments, sometimes ruling in coalition with other communists and at other times, like now ruling with the at best social-democrat Congress party. What the time has definatly not brought us though, has been a communist Nepal.
To read about Communist States click here.
Communism in Nepal in 2023
To cut a long story short communists currently hold 190 out of 275 seats in the lower house of assembly, with a decent chunk of the rest also being by left-leaning parties. When elections were held in 2017 this initially led to a government led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist) supported by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre).
Alas this government fell through when there was a plot in the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist) leading to the formation of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Socialist), as well as the removal of support for the government from the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre). This has now led to the perverse situation whereby the government is now led by the Congress Party, propped up by not two, but three communist parties, while the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist) are the official opposition.
Now if all this seems ridiculous to you and you feel the whole Communist Party of Nepal (Insert stuff) has been overused that is because it has. And not only that but it massively screams of that scene in Life of Brian where they shout “splitters”. I have included a clip below just for good measure.
The left have done what they always do, prefering to fight with themselves, as opposed to the right who by and large tend to team up against the common enemy the left.
Why is Nepal so bad at being communist?
As well as the aforementioned “splitter” problem there are also other factors at play, with two particular “ideologies” taking hold. The first is the myth of the socialist-oriented market economy, a policy originally invented to justify a return to capitalism in Vietnam and not all that dissimilar to Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.
This is justified by saying that Nepal is not yet developed enough for communism, or evoking the New Economic Policy (NEP) of Lenin, but it is in fact an excuse to be capitalist while also parading more hammers, sickles and stars than you can shake a stick at. You see if you talk enough about the flight of the working man, you do not have to actually do anything to help him.
The second “ideology” is known as Peoples Multiparty Democracy, or the belief that you can build communism through the ballot box, and this a policy invented by a party that has Marxist-Leninist in its name. Sadly this also means the people in power (communist) getting rich and not wanting to share it.
How communist is Nepal then?
They are run by communist parties, most people are communist and they have Democratic in their country name. Aside from sporting some classic red paraphernalia this is pretty much where the communist part ends, something only too evident when you visit Kathmandu.
For most tourists that travel to Kathmandu, Thamel is where you will either stay, or end up, being the “party” part of town. What this actually means is an area filled with brothels parading as dance bars and spivs aggressively offering you everything from any drug you can imagine to sex with children.
Yes there are more police than there were before and apparently it is less seedy than it once was, but it is evident that enough people are being paid off to allow the worst excesses of capitalism to thrive in Nepal.
Yes they are run by communist parties in Nepal, but these are communist in that they are parties of power, rather than proletariat revolution.