Those who remember Australian politics, especially student politics, of
the 1970s may well retain a soft spot for the Maoists. Extreme and
idiosyncratic leftists, prone to violence, they also provided many
moments of comic relief. But since the Chinese leadership broke with
Mao Zedong’s policies after 1978, Maoism has ceased to be a live issue
in Australia, and in most other places.

Not so in the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal, where a Maoist insurgency is
estimated to have cost 12,000 lives in the last decade. Early this
year, King Gyanendra took matters into his own hands and staged a coup,
dismissing his government and vowing to crush the rebels. But matters
only seem to have gotten worse, and the western powers, whose protests
were muted at first, have been pushing more strongly for a return to

Now, as reported in yesterday’s Guardian,
the Nepalese opposition parties have reached an accord with the Maoist
insurgents, promising a united front against the king to be followed by
elections under international supervision. Rebel leader Pushpa Kamal
Dahal said “We are fully committed to bring the armed conflict to an
end and establish permanent peace after ending the autocratic monarchy.”

Democratic elections are not usually high on the Maoist wish-list. The Guardian’s
reporter, however, is sanguine: “Analysts point out that the Maoists
were ‘at heart a political party’, though one that had resorted to
terror tactics and coercion.”

Many observers who held similarly rosy views about the original Maoists
in China ended up being severely disillusioned. But the world has
changed a lot since then, and this is a chance for the US and its
allies to show how serious they are about their support for peace and