A Year and a Half Later, Returning to Nepal's Marxist School

In 2011, the last time I was in Nepal, I had the chance to visit the then fledgling Marxist Learning Center. At that time, they only had a smattering of books, a discussion group, maybe a dozen participants, and it was ran out of the home of a more seasoned Maoist. We decided to take a second look at the school and see how it had changed and hopefully grown.

Our steps were brisk down dusty Kathmandu lanes as we passed bustling laborers and busy shopkeepers. The peak of the day had already passed us; shadows were growing longer, the air cooler. I had been through this district once before but it had been dark, so the area seemed only distantly familiar... So much so that our team almost missed the entrance to the apartment building where the incognito learning center was located.

We walked inside and proceeded to climb several flights of stairs where we arrived at a well lit room. Our team and five Nepali revolutionaries together sat down cross-legged on flat pillows wrapped in plastic around a wooden table all on a green rug which stretched much of the room. I assumed the plastic was to keep the pillows from getting dirty.

We started to ask questions and listen, while they told us about their project. "There used to be study groups and learning centers led by the party," the coordinator of the school explained. He wore a gray hoodie and didn't speak any English. Thankfully another one of the leaders of the school spoke it quite well and translated for us. He sat across from me, wearing a bright red jacket and a fresh hair cut. The translation went on, elaborating on what the coordinator said, "But when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was set in motion, the party stopped all of its internal theoretical training programs. We saw a great need to educate people in Marxism."

The Marxist Learning Center isn't run by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) by any high level program, or any party for that matter. But by a few members of the CPN-M, together with other leftists, who simply took initiative. Our translator explained to us, "On the first day we had 60 books. We just called up people we knew and asked them to donate whatever they could. Now we have 4000, Marxist and books that aren't too, all donated."

 

Having made some headway and garnered regular participation from party members and others, "serious about studying the world, philosophy, and history," they are able to run the school entirely through donations. The school now has its own space with several rooms (a big deal in Nepal). They have a space for people to sleep if they decide to stay to study all night and a projector to host weekly movie showings, sometimes educational, sometimes just cinema. One was Wind That Shakes the Barley, a film which presents a picture of the national liberation movement in Ireland with significant parallel to the situation in Nepal, showing in this experience in history, how struggles and different roads emerge within the liberation movement, and how a revolution can be stopped in its tracks by factions that only wish to go "so far."

"We showed that movie three times because there was such a demand. We had former People's Liberation Army watching the movie and crying. It was like, the exact same as what happened here."

The centerpiece of the school is that it holds regular classes and even 10-15 day courses on topics ranging from Marxist economic analysis, people's war, to electricity and science. "The classes don't have to be from a Marxist point of view. It is more up to what the teachers want to teach." our translator told us.

Our discussion went on for over an hour as the sun set behind the large windows at one end of the room. "We serve several dozen people regularly.... Some theoretical training has been started again now that our party has split. But it isn't systematic. Hopefully it will be soon," the coordinator lamented. In the meantime, they were continuing to take initiative, "We are having discussions about starting learning centers in every district of Nepal. Our goal is to make sure that every cadre is educated."

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  • It looks as though the CPN(M) is able to go about its activities quite freely, while defying the regime from which it split in some dramatic ways. I take it this indicates a high level of public support?