April 16, 2008

Maoists win Nepal election

Daniel Hannan writes in The Daily Telegraph:
Nepal’s Maoists are keen to tell anyone who’ll listen that they will respect property rights and market principles. The bourgeois-capitalist phase of Nepal’s development, one of them told me this morning, will be a long one; but, he added, it’ll still be an improvement on feudalism.

Even so, it’s not often that Maoists win elections. Final results are still coming in, and some constituencies need to be re-polled, but it is already clear that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has confounded all the pundits and trounced its rivals.

How did they do it? The answer is partly demographic. Two thirds of Nepalese are under 35, and most of these have never voted before. They are sick of the elderly high-caste gents who have run the system so far, and want something different. Conservative and monarchist sympathisers have done themselves few favours over the years. And the Maoists' majority may have been artificially inflated: there are credible reports of irregularities in the rural constituencies where the militias are strongest. (Foreign election observers, who rarely like to stray too far from five-star hotels, have none the less endorsed the poll.) Still, irregularities or no, the Maoists plainly won colossal support.

It’s a funny thing: the other country which has experienced a major Maoist insurgency in modern times is my native Peru. Visiting Nepal for the first time, I am struck by the similarity of the people to indigenous Peruvians. Their physiognomy is virtually identical, their music akin, their temperament comparable. And something in their common character evidently answers the essentially Millenarian call of rural Maoism.

Peruvian Indians, like Nepalese, are a contemplative, spiritual people. Yet one day, without warning, they gave themselves over to a decade of abominable violence, which stopped as suddenly as it had started following the capture of the Shining Path leader. In Nepal, the end has come through victory rather than defeat, but the appeal of the creed was essentially the same: the promise of total transformation, of a new era, of redemption through violence.

Is it, I wonder, a case of parallel evolution – two civilisations evenly suited to high mountains – or did some offshoot of the Himalayan peoples cross the Pacific in pre-Columbian times?

The population of Nepal is now almost 30,000,000, with a high growth rate. Four-fifths are Hindus and only one-tenth are Buddhists. Racially, they are a complicated mixture of East Asian (like the Tibetans) and Caucasian (like Northwest Indians). In general, the higher the altitude, the more Tibetan they tend to be. The East Asian-looking ones often don't like to venture below 4,000 feet altitude, which is considered the malaria line.

My assumption has been that the recent successes of Maoism in Nepal aren't driven by a new-found enthusiasm for backyard steel furnaces but are instead a proxy for some identity politics struggle within Nepal such as ethnicity. The Maoist uprising in Peru , for example, was more of a flare-up of the ancient Inca vs. Spaniard struggle, just with a few white intellectual leaders to provide it with a 20th century ideology.

But Nepal is a complicated place, so I don't know what's going on.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

I wonder what their campaign slogan was. Perhaps something upbeat and punchy like "It's Year Zero in Nepal!".

Anonymous said...

I'm from the Indian state of Bihar, which is just south of Nepal. My Dad's family hails just South of the border, from where you can see the Himalayas. He has some relatives who are from the Nepal side.

There is however 2 Nepals. Those that live in the flat lands just below the Himalayas, who are indistinguishable in appearance and culture from North Indians, and those that live up in the mountains who look East Asian, and eat water buffalo's which most Indian Hindus would find abominable.

Of course, there's lots of people who are mixed, like the former royal family.

It's definitely true that the caucasoid Nepalis who lived in the fertile flat lands were much more likely to support the king and oppose the Maoists (they had raised their own private millitias to fight off the insurgency), than the oriental/mixed Nepalis who lived up in the mountains.

As far as I can tell the leaders on both sides are upper caste Hindus.

Anonymous said...

Cursory Wikipedia investigation shows that the leaders of the Maoists are largely Indian-looking types, not surprising given that these seem to be the majority, and also more urban and connected. But according to reports, the basis of support is amongst the rural people, who seem to be a bit more east asian. But there are so many groups in Nepal, forming no obvious blocks, that I think looking at the election victory as a proxy for ethnicity is perhaps viewing it with western, specifically US, spectacles.

Sriram said...

India and nepal share an open border.. and the migration is in the range of 600,000 per year (to India). Nepalis are free to work in India (no papers required) and, given this rate, there must be millions Nepalis residing and working in India. The two most stereotypical professions are "gorkha watchman" (gorkhas also serve in Singapore and Hongkong.. they are known for their martial prowess) which is a type of status symbol for wealthy people and prostitute. There are anywhere from 200,000 to 375,000 Nepali women in Indian brothels. Of course they also feature sometimes in higher status professions. Maoism also runs rife in many Indian provinces.

Sriram said...


Maybe you could focus on Comrade Prachanda (he fancies himself as Lenin) when Obamanalysis is on hold. A nice throwback to the 50s revolutionaries.

Anonymous said...

This might be useful in understanding the situation in Nepal.


Anonymous said...

The author wrote:

"Is it, I wonder, a case of parallel evolution – two civilisations evenly suited to high mountains – or did some offshoot of the Himalayan peoples cross the Pacific in pre-Columbian times?"

Both groups are descended from prehistoric Siberian populations. In the medieval period the Tibetans were nomads on the Mongolian steppes. They retreated south to the Himalayas after being defeated by the Mongols.

Anonymous said...

the recent successes of Maoism in Nepal aren't driven by a new-found enthusiasm for backyard steel furnaces but are instead a proxy for some identity politics struggle within Nepal such as ethnicity. The Maoist uprising in Peru , for example, was more of a flare-up of the ancient Inca vs. Spaniard struggle

Another supporting fact in the Iron Law of Race: Racial fighting destroys everything. You cannot have an honest political discussion in a multiracial society. You cannot have private property protections in a multiracial society. Perhpas worst of all, you cannot have democracy in a multiracial society.

Certainly not if the poorer race(s) is in the majority or is a big enough minority.

Anonymous said...

There is a caste/ethnic angle involved. The majority of Maoist supporters are from the Hindu lower castes at the foothills (both Indian looking and Mongoloid looking), who claim to have been opressed for centuries. The Buddhist groups of Tibetan stock are the ones who are the least interested. That far up in the Himalayas, it matters little to them who's in charge in Kathmandu, and it's not likely to make any difference either way.

Anonymous said...

To me (an Indian who grew up partly in Bihar - the Indian state south of Nepal), it seems to me that Nepal is sorta running 1 to 1.5 generations behind India.

In the 70s, parts of India went through a spasm of Maoist violence ("Naxalites" in Indian terminology).

Demographically, the instigators of that were "upper caste" youth (typically 1st or 2nd generation in college) who cut their teeth in the "radical" movements in college. (That the "centrally planned" economy of the time had very few high paying jobs to offer at the time probably also contributed)

The leaders of the Nepal Maoist Party are also upper caste Hindu Nepalis and, like their Indian counterparts 1st or 2nd generation university educated. In fact, a large number of them are alums of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi.

Folks in the US may not have heard about JNU - but it is our american sytle liberal arts school (and hence naturally "red") and educates a lot of our beauracrats and "intellegensia". A number of its faculty are, (are you surprised ?) US educated.

So there you are - the Nepali Maoist movement is spawned by Indian Leftist Academics - educated in the US and UK....(though Comrades Bhattarai et al. tend to reflexively think of China as the Paragon of all that is good in the world)

[On a totally unrelated note (perhaps not), if you go to the JNU website, on a bar on the left - along with careers, departments and schools etc., you will see "gender sensitisation"]

Anonymous said...

My Nepali chum offers the general rule that all trouble anywhere in the subcontinent is India's fault.
"Even in Sri Lanka?"
"Especially in Sri Lanka."

Anonymous said...

The Incas in Peru has a pretty darn large (ginormous) empire with lots of public works projects but no currency. And by public works, I mean men had to spend months per year away from home building roads and what not. They even had Stalin-style ethnic relocation to prevent local solidarity against the central government.

At least that is what they say these days, I'm sure (heh) that has no relation to anthropologists sympathetic to (or suckers for) the Shining Path's ideological interpretation of history.

Prabhat Jha said...


Anonymous said...

Anybody who listens to experts in the defense and intelligence community (and no, I'm not "evil neocon") knows that despite the Mao moniker, the PRC has nothing to do with these cats. China has exactly zero interest these days in exporting any kind of revolutionary ideology or support, not least because they don't want any of their huge resource-extraction businesses in Africa and elsewhere put at risk for nationalization.

In fact, the Chinese have done a pretty good job of sealing off their whole border with Nepal to the point where the Nepali Maoists have not gotten a single bullet or bean from the PRC side of the line.

No, everyone knows Indian intelligence has been behind the Nepali Maoists' funding and logistics, both for their military and political campaigns. The insurrection wouldn't even have existed but for support from New Dehli. What is more perplexing is why the Indians have been wanting to destabilize Nepal. Some of the previous posters have hinted at the Hindu background of a lot of the insurrectionists, but in addition to that it seems that a lot of the top spooks and generals in India have a reflexive hatred of monarchies.

Anonymous said...

Nepalis did desperately want a change, unfortunately they had a little choce. Sadly, it happened to be the maoist with their 'change with the barrel of gun'principle. For the last 10 years, before elction and even after elction their violence, extortion and threats continue. It true that they had threatened to go back to violence if they failed in election. Ethnic card has been played as well. In whatever way, they are advocating dismantling of old system and social values in hope of building some kind of new society, the 'year zero' precisely, with scant regard for the largely community based, spiritual and traditional way of life for most people. The Maoist attitude and atrocities have been unspeakable, people have recoiled first,not used to war and violence for a long long time, then suffered, then given up. The current mood now is Nepal is that of resignation - let something happen, let anything happen! All they want is peace and stability though these things seem rather far off. A lot of further tension is in store,ethnic specially, with the Terain groups rebelling and asking for a separate state, and with other Mangoloid ethnic groups gearing for autonomous region. Nepal is really small geographically and has over 50 ethinic groups. Sometimes it seems Nepal will go back to the state of 250 years ago, before unification, when it was divided into 44 small principlaities and kingdoms. In any case, a lot of bloodshe might be in store which the Nepalis fervently want to cease. Why is it that people's true aspiration clashes with political ambition?