Prachanda talks to Alessandro Gilioli of Italian newspaper L’espresso. Republished here with the permission of Gilioli. Here is the original interview.
President Prachanda, let’s start with the current situation. The war is finally over, you entered Kathmandu and now the Maoist police are managing most things in the city, from the traffic through to street cleaning. Your posters are everywhere. It seems to me that you’ve already won the war. Is that true?
«We can not exactly say that it is totally true, but on the whole it is. Our revolution has not been completely victorious as yet. Changing the social economic structure and empowering the masses, in this sense, we have done an enormous amount and at the moment we are the main political force in the country. I think that we have achieved almost 60 percent of our goals , the remaining 40 per cent will be achieved with the election of the Costituent Assembly».
How long will it take?
«I think about a year. We are trying to have the Constituent Assembly’s election within 6-7 months. During this period, there will be big socioeconomic changes within the country and I think we’ll come out victorious».
What are the next steps?
«We have proposed to form a republican front of all the democratic forces, not just from the left wing but also from the liberals and radicals. We want to unite all the republican forces in the country against the feudal autocracy».
Will you achieve a Republican form of government through a referendum or through the elelction of a Constituent Assembly?
«Right now there is a real possibility of an election for the Constituent Assembly. A referendum is not plausible at the moment as the other parties , like the Congress Party, are divided on this issue. We agree on a referendum, we don’t have any problem with this idea, but the election of the Constituent Assembly is the main issue».
What will be the destiny of King Gyanendra?
«It all depends on what one intends as the role of the King in itself. There will not be any political role for the king. The monarchy will be completely abolished in this country. If he agrees to the will of the masses, Gyanendra could live in Nepal as a normal citizen. If he does not agree, if he tries to do anything to sabotage the Republic, he will be crushed. Maybe the State will give him some land, property, but he must stay away from politics.»
How many votes, in percentage, will the Maoist party get in the elections for the Constituent Assembly?
«I think the majority of the population will vote for us. More than 50 percent should be for our party. In rural areas, according to our estimates, more than 80 per cent of the masses support our party. In urban areas and in the Terai there is a mixed situation. So now we are trying our best to win over population in urban areas and on the Terai’s plains. Anyway, I think that Maoist party will be supported by more than 50 percent of the country. Overall the democratic, republican, radical and left forces will gain more than 75 per cent of the vote».
Do you think that US government will accept the new government of Nepal if the communists party, Maoist included, win the elections? Aren’t you scared of a coup d’état like Chile in the Seventies?
«This is a very serious issue. The representatives of the US in Asia also tried to sabotage the peace process in Nepal, they have always supported the king and opposed democracy. The US Ambassador James Moriarty is still travelling to many regions telling everybody not to believe the Maoists, that the Maoists are ad… So, the CIA may conspire against our movement, we are serious and we are prepared for anything. They will not be able to stop the march to a republic and democracy».
If the Maoist party gains more than 50 percent of the vote, will you form a government on you own?
«No. We will try to unite other left and radical democratic forces and move forward together, we need a coalition, in order to develop the country in a prosperously. But if we Maoists win the elections, we will naturally claim the presidency of the Republic».
And what about yourself, Mr Prachanda?
«Well, the party will decide about that, but personally I’m not really interested in becoming president. What I want do to do is to change the entire socioeconomic system in our country, but not with myself in government or as the president».
What do you hold as the most urgent reforms needed by Nepal?
«First of all we want to restructure the whole state into a new federal system. We want to change the set up of past 230 year feudal state, we want to radically democratize the state structure. We want to have a federal style of government with 9 or 10 autonomous regions. In the mean time our priority will be a revolutionary land reform. We want to seize the lands of the big feudal landlords. We want to seize their land and distribute it to the poor».
There are people, both in Nepal and abroad, that still believe that you Maoists are not yet a democratic party. They think you have accepted a multi-party system just as a strategy to take over power. How do you answer this?
«Yes, I have heard these voices. But yet again I reiterate that we really believe in Socialism, and even in a proletarian dictatorship, there should be multi-party competition. We came to this decision through intensive debate within our party. Our understanding is that without multi-party competition a modern society can not be built. But there is one very important issue for us: who is this democracy and multi-party system for? We have witnessed many different democratic systems which do nothing to help the majority of the population, but just few classes or regional groups. On the contrary, we want democracy to be really to benefit the masses. This is our idea of democracy and it is not some tactic or strategy. The people who say this, are the people who have always been on the side of the landlords, the capitalists, the war mongers that bomb the masses (like in Iraq and Afghanistan), well, they are not really democratic. This is not us!».
Is there any leader around the world to whom you feel close? Maybe Lula of Brazil, Chavez of Venezuela or Mandela of South Africa…
«I think that those leaders are objectively closer to us than others who are blatantly capitalistic. But ideologically we are fiiferent from them as they represent only the middle classes. We represent the people, the victims and the oppressed masses.»
What about Fidel Castro?
«We are not really that close to Fidel. We took some inspiration from Che Guevara when we needed it during the Peoples War, but right now we want to forge our own way, we want to take the science of the masses to a new level. Of corse, the people you mentioned are an élite in the fight against imperialism and the US superpower, but in an ideologically I don’t feel close to them. Actually, our understandings standpoint is different from any communist party in the world. We are trying to interpretate marxism according to the needs of 21 st century and we are debating this with the socialist, communist and leftist movements all over the world. This is important not just for South Asia, but for the masses throughout the planet».
Some say that you are similar to Pol Pot’s Khmer rouges in Cambodia…
«No, no, we are completely different from them. Although Pol Pot might have had good intentions of freeing the oppressed masses, his strategy and his policies were completely wrong. We had a very serious discussion in the party about the Khmer rouges, and also about the Peruvian Maoists, and we think that we are completely different from them. We are not dogmatists, we are not sectarians, we are not traditionalists. We want to be ever more dynamic, adapting to our environment, understanding modernity».
What do you think about the No Global and Anti-WTO international movement?
«In an ideological sense we are different, but we are very interesting the No global movement and support it».
Does Communism make sense today?
«It’s a big question, starting with Marx, Lenin and Mao Ze Dong, who wanted to apply the marxist teachings in semicolonial countries. Now, we still need marxism, but in accordance to the needs of the 21 st century. We have to apply marxist science in a very new context, understanding social, economic and also technological changes, without dogmatism and without sectarianism. We are trying to develop a completely new concept, different from what happened in the past century. When we are in the government, our experiment will surprise everybody. But to do that, we need the support of all the masses from abroad. That’s why I want to appeal to all the anti feudal and and anti imperialists throughout the world. In Nepal we are at an historical turning point, the poor are fighting against autocracy, for justice and equality. Even if we are a small country in South Asia, we think that our revolution can have impact all over the world. We are fighting not only for Nepal but for the masses of the entire world. We need help and the contributions from everybody».
Why do you still call yourself Maoists, while China is turning to capitalism? Why don’t you change your name, like the Italian Communists did 16 years a go?
«We changed our name several times in the past, before the Peoples War. We can change name according to the situation, there is no dogmatism about it. But we think that Mao developed a very important philosophy. Even though China has changed its colours and no longer follows Maoism any more, there are some ideological points in Maoism that even today hold good against repression. So, at the moment we are ot going to change names. Maybe in the future».
How do you image Nepal in 10- 20 years from now?
«Our country and our people have lots of opportunities for prosperity. We are now poor, but not because we don’t have natural and human resources. We are poor because of the policy enforced by the feudal King Gyanendra. We have resorses for hydroelectric power, thanks to the large amount of water coming off the Himalayas. Tourism could also create enormous income for us, thanks to our marvellous mountains, our historical and religious sites and our astonishing natural parks. Not to mention our agriculture, the land in Terai is potentially very fertile With good government we can become one of the richest country in South Asia. But we need transport, hi tech and scientific projects, infrastructures, and a lot of courage. In ten years we’ll change the whole scenario, rebuilding this country to prosperity. In 20 years we could be simular to Switzerland. This is my goal for Nepal».
This will happen only if foreign investors trust a communist government…
«Yes, I know. We cannot ignore the whole process of liberalization in the world. So, we will apply mixed economics to this country. Right now, we are no saying that we plan a total socialist economy, though we will not blindly follow western liberalism. We have some national priorities and we will welcome foreign investors, using capital from abroad for the well being of Nepal».
Mr Prachanda, you speak as an experienced politician, but you have lived as a guerilla leader for the past 10 years, during the Peoples War, in the mountains, with thousands of Royal Army soldiers looking for you every day. How was your life during the war?
«Well, it was very difficult, facing many dangers. Sometimes I stayed in India, other times in the various regions of Nepal where we were fighting. I had to be mobile, you know: mobility means security in
those conditions. There were so many problems, incidents…».
Till a few weeks a go, your life and personality were a real mystery to the whole world. Who are you?
«You know, I’m not so interested in talking about my self… In any case, I was born to a lower middle class family from the Kaski district, near Pokhara. Later, my parents moved to the Chitwan district, in Terai. It was a newly developed district, not traditional, with different people from all over Nepal. This was a very important experience for me. I studied up through high school there, and later I went to college, where I studied Agricultural Science. I graduated and became a high school teacher. In the meantime, I was studied for a masters in Public Administration. But during that time, I joined the movement and became a full time activist and cadre in politics in Kathmandu. I lived in the capital for more than 10 years, then I moved to the mountains, when the Peoples War began».
How did you become Communist?
«First of all, my family was not at all rich. My parents had to work hard, life was very difficult for us. So I began asking myself why there was no social justice, why there were rich people and people without money for proper food, for proper clothes, for a proper education. Secondly, at high school, when I was 14-15 years old, there was a great debate about communism, marxism and China’s revolution. In my school one of my favorite teachers was a member of the Communist party. He was a very good man, on the side of the poor. I liked him a lot even before knowing he was communist. When he told me, I became curious about communism and began asking him questions. One day, he gave to me a small booklet with quotations of Mao Ze Dong, and a big photo of the Chinese President»
Do you believe in any religion? Are you religiuos?
«No, not at all. But in the Peoples Army there are Hindus, Buddhists and others, and we respect all the religious beliefs of the masses, even if our party teaches its officials and cadres a more scientific and secular point of view».
Do you love any particular movies, books or music?
«On the whole, I read Indian and American literature, and obviously I read a lot of political newspapers from all over the world. When I was a teacher I used to dance and to play some musical instruments. Earlier, when I was a student, I liked to go to the cinema, watching movies based on indian legends, but also some American films».
«Well, my favourite was “Spartacus”, you know? An historical movie by Stanley Kubrik, with Kirk Douglas, about a revolution by slaves in Ancient Rome».
Copyright L’espresso 2006