A blind eye to communism

The Vietnam War was founded on the delusion that there was a monolithic communist bloc that threatened ‘freedom’ all over the world.


The communists are taking over in Nepal, and nobody cares.

Thirty years ago it would have caused a grave international crisis; 50 years ago there would even have been talk of foreign military intervention.

Today – nothing. Outside Nepal, it has barely made the news at all.

Nepal’s communists have split and split again over fine points of doctrine and strategy. Recently, however, the Communist Party of Nepal – Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) formed an electoral alliance that swept the recent national elections, the first since 1999.

Various communist leaders have held office in the revolving-door coalitions, none lasting much more than a year, that have governed Nepal since it began its democratic transition a dozen years ago, but you couldn’t truthfully have said that “the communists are in power”.

Now you really can say it.

The CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre) ran a single joint candidate in every constituency in Nepal, and won two-thirds of the seats (174 out of 275).

The two parties are pledged to unite within six months, and they will form a government without non-communist members that will rule Nepal.

Nepal is not some irrelevant backwater.

It is a country with more people than Australia (although less land or money), and it takes up half of the Himalayan border between China and India.

In the self-serving definition of the world’s think-tanks and “strategic studies institutes”, it is important strategic territory. Yet Washington doesn’t really care that the communists are taking over.

Neither does Moscow. New Delhi and Beijing care a little bit, because of their inevitable rivalry as Asia’s and the world’s two biggest countries (1.3 billion people each).

Both see their relations with Nepal as a zero-sum game, and India’s traditionally dominant influence there (all Nepalis live on the Indian side of the Himalayas) is threatened by the presumed preference of Nepalese communists for fellow communists in China.

The fact of the matter is that communists coming to power in Nepal in 2018 makes no more difference to the rest of the world than communists coming to power in South Vietnam did in 1975.

Well, you knew where I was going with this, didn’t you? South Vietnam had about the same number of people in 1975 as Nepal does now, and it was just as “strategic” – which is to say, not very strategic at all.

When the communists won in the south and reunified Vietnam, it certainly didn’t change anybody’s domestic policies elsewhere in Southeast Asia, or change the calculations of the major powers in any way.

It was Henry Kissinger’s savage and illegal bombing campaign in Cambodia, not the war in Vietnam, that turned the Khmer Rouge into genocidal monsters.

And it was the Vietnamese communists who finally invaded Cambodia in 1978 and put an end to the genocide.

The whole Vietnam War, which killed 55 000 American soldiers and about three million Vietnamese, was founded on the delusion that there was a monolithic communist bloc that threatened “freedom” all over the world.

Now, the arrival of communists in power in Nepal through entirely legal and democratic means is causing no panic whatever.

Gwynne Dyer

Gwynne Dyer

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