REALIA PERU – YESTERDAY. TODAY. TOMORROW?..
FUNAMENTAL IDEOLOGICAL ERRORS OF MAOISTIC PERUAN RESISTANCE
Maoism is often blamed for the voluntaristic implementation of its revolutionary strategy. And for this there is every reason. Indeed, the victory of the Chinese revolution in 1949 gave rise to a whole wave of movements inspired by the example of the Chinese Communist Party and striving to stage a revolution “in the image and likeness” of the CPC’s military-political strategy; history knows many such examples – to take at least the French (1789-1848) or Cuban (1953-59) revolutions and the chain reaction caused by them in Central Europe and Latin America, respectively. The victory of the Vietnamese revolution in 1975 over American imperialism and the puppet South Vietnamese regime inspired a new wave of Maoist uprisings across the globe. The results of the uncritical use of the Maoist strategy turned out to be far from the most unambiguous and impressive. Where all the necessary prerequisites were set up for this (for example, in Nepal), the Maoists did come to power, somewhere (like in India and the Philippines) they were bogged down in protracted low-intensity partisan conflicts without hope of any strategic success, but somewhere (as in Sri Lanka and Thailand) they suffered serious military and political defeats and left the historical scene. Of course, after the colossal shock experienced by world imperialism after the shameful defeat of the peasants and partisans of Vietnam, the class opponent made the necessary conclusions and learned a lot. After all, according to the propaganda effect, the fall of Beijing in 1949, sparsely lit in the press, cannot be compared with the shock of Saigon’s fall in 1975, when the whole world watched the progress of the Vietnamese people’s war with a shudder or hope. But you can not write off all the miscalculations and failures on the growth of resources, skills and capabilities of the enemy. The Chinese communists in 192149, the Vietnamese and Laoist partisans created and perfected revolutionary theory, starting from their own revolutionary practice. But many Maoists after Mao, by virtue of their dogmatism and unwillingness to study the concrete alignment of class forces and the capabilities of their enemy, made their own blunders. One of the typical examples of such a “revolution”, which led to enormous human sacrifices, isolation and marginalization of the armed communist underground, is the instructive in every respect story of the Maoist “Communist Party of Peru”, better known as “Sendero Luminoso” (Spanish version). . The revival of the revolutionary tradition is impossible without a deep analysis of unsuccessful revolutionary strategies. As for the urban guerrilla, we will soon highlight this topic in the final part of the material about the Red Brigades, and now we will talk about the less well-known general reader of the recent civil war in Peru, which shook the country for almost twenty years.
On her example, it is good to trace a deep bankruptcy, even the degeneration of Maoist dogma, unable to offer an adequate revolutionary alternative to the workers of the Third World. In a popular rumor, these bloody events were reflected in characteristic peyorativas: for example, the Maoists became unattractively called “terrucos” (“terrorists” in Peruvian Spanish), and the southern and central Andes, where the senderists developed their activities, became called “chaqwa” (“chaos” in translation from Quechua). It is amazing that at one time even openly anti-communist experts did not doubt the success of the Maoists. Before capturing the Sendero leader Abimael Guzmán Reynoso (“Chairman Gonzalo”) in 1992, analysts had predicted rather bleak prospects for Peru: the senderists year after year consistently expanded their zones of influence and military presence, conducting daring attacks on the military and civilian infrastructure. They consciously realized the plan for surrounding the city with a village up to the collapse of the central government and the fall of the capital. But after the captivity of their leader, “Chairman Gonzalo,” and the subsequent party split, the movement in the late 1990s – early 2000s steadily declined. Now it is only a measly isolated detachments, the largest of which is based in the VRAEM 2 region and profits from the local drug trafficking. On these fossil “guerilleros” it is quite possible to admire the “YouTube”. It would seem that in following the Maoist dogma, differing from the “canon” only in nuances interesting only to military experts, Peruvian Maoists had no problems at all. Recall that the “classic” Maoist scenario, adapted for waging a revolutionary war in a peasant country, consisted, firstly, in creating a partisan base (“the village opposes the city”), establishing a delicate balance of power with the release of partisan bases and creating partisan districts (“the village surrounds the city”), and in the capture of key administrative centers as a result of a strategic offensive (“the village captures the city”).
The implementation of a revolutionary strategy was allotted to several stages. The first stage was, as usual, the preparatory, “propaganda” stage, which covered almost ten (!) Years. At this time, in isolated mountainous regions of the Andes, military and political personnel were recruited and trained – the core of the future revolutionary avant-garde. In 1980, the leadership considered the preparatory stage completed and switched to the implementation of the second stage in the creation and preparation of the material and social base of the future “people’s war”. In full accordance with the Maoist principles, so-called “Liberated zones” in remote rural regions, where a regime of terror and violence was established by successively destroying crops and agricultural equipment, disrupting power lines, closing regional markets and sporadic reprisals against enemy informers and dissatisfied. All in order to break and destroy the supply lines that connect the remote regions with the administrative center. The initial “core” of the movement was the remote mountainous department of Ayacucho, the name of which, according to one version, translates from Quechua as “the corner of the dead”. This god-forgotten region was considered more “Indian” and “wild” than the rest; agrarian reform of the period of progressive military rule bypassed him; he was not burdened with the presence of the central authority. The peasantry, involved in the local policies of local prosperous landowners and the wave of violence that accompanied it, were split and literally electrified by the accumulated discontent from corruption and agrarian conflicts. In other words, the backward and impoverished department was a real dream for Maoist revolutionaries. Two years later, in 1982, the strengthened party moved to the third stage – the rural guerrilla war with the prospect of transferring it to the city and moving to the fourth stage of the “people’s war”. Thus, the bottom line was to split the country into separate guerrilla-controlled zones, naturally limited by mountainous terrain, cut off the capital from food supplies from the village from the north, provoke a political crisis and government collapse, and at the final stage take the capital, Lima.
But what went wrong? It is more logical to begin with what revolutionaries themselves were. Many analysts and political analysts put this question and continue to perplex. Contrary to the views popular in the Anglo-American literature, the movement was not a revolt of the Incas masses under utopian slogans. The movement itself did not fit into the narrow politicized ideologies of the pro-government “terrorists”. Desperate to understand the situation, they tended to the fact that “Sendero” was a “mystery”, “mystification”, generated by an alien, irrational and incomprehensible to them culture of the Andean Indians. We will try to sort out the situation. Definitely, one can only say that neither the leading cadres nor the main party activists were simple peasants. In principle, there is nothing reprehensible in this, and a normal revolutionary, not burdened with personal complexes, is not obliged to be ashamed of his non-proletarian origin. Delving into the ins and outs of revolutionary leaders, poking them in the nose with “bourgeois” leaven and parental money is the last thing. However, it is worthwhile to say a few words about this for some clarification of the situation. The villagers of Ayacucho were completely absorbed in land conflicts and involved in the client networks of local landowners. Nevertheless, Ayacucho Indian peasants, this present hell, were not alien to the desire for a better life: having abandoned the naive faith in the restoration of the once great Inca Empire and armed with pragmatism, they began to migrate en masse to other regions and sought to get at least some education. The growth in the number of studying youth (from 19 to 76% in the period 1960-1980) was impressive and far outperformed the average in Latin America (from 17 to 57%, respectively). The authorities seemed to meet them, for example, re-opening the university in Ayacucho in 1959 (founded in 1677, but closed its doors in 1885). A very peculiar intellectual environment was formed there: pacifists from the USA came, educated Peruvian agronomists, French historians, anthropologists … Such a cosmopolitan public brought in new, including radical, ideas. It is not difficult to guess that students, university teachers and village teachers became the base of the future organization. At first it was the young “Mesto”, people from the middle and small provincial bourgeoisie. Then the children of well-to-do peasants and “Mistis” (small landowners of non-Indian origin) from the province joined their ranks. They were much poorer than the stepchildren of the bourgeoisie; many came from landless and impoverished families. Having lost touch with the peasant environment, almost without knowing Quechua, they did not join the urban bourgeoisie and the Creole intellectual elite. In other words, it was this frustrated stratum of partially declassed youth that became an excellent combustible material for radicalization. The politicization of students and teachers of the National University of San Cristobal de Wamanga in the department of Ayacucho began in the 1960s and continued until the late 1970s. The situation was aggravated by the fact that in the last period of military rule, the authorities began to be more wary of the social sciences, seeing in them the potential for radical ideological mobilization, and reduced spending on education. This contributed a lot to the frustration of students and associate professors. The popularity of Marxism grew. Having become acquainted with Marxism, for the first time young people had the opportunity to take a critical look at Peruvian reality and discover deep social and economic contradictions in it. But radicalization was peculiar. At this time, the USSR Academy of Sciences in developing countries, including Peru, massively distributed transferable textbooks on the history of history, diamatum and political economy, written during the time of Stalin What is sad about all this is that, as one quite good researcher of the intellectual background of the “senderists” said, they, too, unfortunately, drew from the manuals, not from a thoughtful reading of the original Marxist texts and analysis of social reality. Yes, and there were few alternatives: the elegant and incomprehensible language of structuralist Marxists (first of all, Louis Althusser, Georges Politzer and Martha Harnecker) was alien to them and remained the lot of mostly urban intellectuals.
At about the same time, in 1964, the Peruvian Communist Party split into pro-Soviet and Maoist factions, which, having left the original names behind, added to them the names of their press organs (the pro-Soviet Unity and the pro-Chinese Red Banner). The Maoists quickly conquered the minds of young people from the Revolutionary Student Front. Translated texts translated by Mao. The “Cultural Revolution” in China, which began in 1966, only spurred young minds. They were increasingly tired of the social sciences, wanting to see in them only an obedient tool of the future inevitable revolution. The military government without any grounds was recorded in the “fascist”, and in the “people’s war” they saw the only tool of social transformations. The uncritical introduction of the Cuban revolutionary model of “Phocism” with subsequent defeats (including in Peru in 1965) forced young people to look for new revolutionary strategies, and sympathies tended toward Maoism. But dogmatism and authoritarianism, which fed on, among other things, university discipline and the organization of training programs, inevitably took its toll. The most that was behind the back of a new generation of young professors is the creative translations of V.G. Afanasyev and F.V. Konstantinov. Everything that went beyond the framework of this wretched circle of reading was defined by the “Senderists” teachers as “Trotskyist revisionism”. At this time, a university group led by a young professor Abimael Guzmán Reynoso (born 1934) broke with the Marxist majority, forming his own organization. The future leader of the armed party came from a well-to-do merchant’s family, who had family ties with the local landowning elite. Never knowing the need, he from his early years, after graduating from a Jesuit college, devoted himself to the study of law and philosophy, eagerly absorbing books, and at the university became interested in Marxism: in particular, he was strongly influenced by Jose Carlos Mariatega’s Peruvian Reality. (died in 1930), the first Peruvian Marxist, founder of the Peruvian Communist Party. The logic teacher Angel Rodriguez Rivas, an authoritarian and fanatically dedicated discipline professor, had a strong influence on him. However, we do not know all the details of his intellectual biography, as well as the degree of acquaintance with Marxist theory, although we can draw some (disappointing) conclusions. The lengthy interview given to him by the Sender newspaper “El Diario” leaves the impression of a person who is religiously convinced of the infallibility of Maoism as the third and highest stage of development of Marxism, as well as of its universality for the working people of the whole world. Among the neutral and obviously memorized formulas of the Marxist-Leninist dogma there are frankly comical statements: for example, “Chairman Gonsalo” suggests that Mariategi, if he had been born in his time, would have been a Maoist. Following such an absurd extrahistorical logic, Marx would also be a true Leninist. But back to the past of our hero. Having joined political debating clubs, where the ways of Peru’s exit from the stalemate of dependent development were discussed, he promptly gained sympathy and influence among the educated youth. In 1956, he became a member of the Peruvian Philosophical Society. A lover of poetry and an admirer of Dostoevsky, he was fond of classical music, did not shy away from the questions of quantum mechanics. Joining the Communist Party, he quickly became disillusioned with its bureaucracy and reformism. In continuation of his academic career, while simultaneously engaging in unbearable organizational and administrative work, he consistently defended two dissertations: one on the bourgeois theory of a democratic state, the other on the Kantian theory of space. In 1962, he became a professor of philosophy at the National University of San Cristobal de Huamanga, but he soon gave up teaching and devoted himself entirely to underground revolutionary work. A visit to China, where Guzman became more closely acquainted with the theory and practice of Chinese socialist transformations, contributed to the “conversion” to Maoism. Newly-born Maoists, in their desire to “get close” to the people, actively studied Quechua (an Indian language, which was then spoken by up to 90% of the population), and even married provincial women from poor rural areas; in Ayacucho, Maoist ideas were also preached by rural teachers raised in a university environment. The newly minted Maoists came to help the peasants in agricultural work, participated in religious festivals and local festivals. But in the ideological upbringing, rigid orthodoxy prevailed. They seemed to be making the way back: while the rest of the 1970s Marxists departed from parties and university discussions and poured into broad social movements, which was fully justified in the then political situation of the socio-political upsurge to gain the necessary practical experience. led by Gusman engaged exclusively in party building. It must be said that several waves of peasant movements swept the country in the preceding decades. The first and most ambitious took place in 1958-64: during it, thousands of peasants and agricultural workers seized the lands of large estates, putting landownership under serious blow. Strangely enough, this wave cost a relatively small amount of blood: according to some estimates, only 166 people died during peasant mobilization and government response 4. In 1965, armed guerilla, inspired by several leftist radical organizations, broke out, but it was also relatively bloodless. The second wave came in the 1970s and coincided with the implementation of a radical agrarian reform. The social environment has been radically transformed, growing like mushrooms, mass professional, student, teacher and women’s organizations. The reign of the progressive military (196880) with their socialist and anti-imperialist rhetoric was accompanied by a number of important reforms, primarily in the agrarian sphere, where, among other things, agricultural cooperation began to be introduced. At the same time, government reforms and mass social movements have not brought any serious qualitative changes. Disappointment in the “Soviet model” also had its effect. The young organization was built on the personality cult of its founder, who was proclaimed the “fourth sword of communism” (after Marx, Lenin and Mao). The strictest party discipline was implanted.
A formal split with the Communist Party took place in 1970, after which the new “Communist Party of Peru – The Shining Path” developed as an independent organization. The Peruvian “Yanan” was born and existed for a long time within the walls of the University of Ayacucho, carefully and selectively establishing contacts with the countryside. Amazingly, throughout its long history, it has always remained a purely personnel and small party. By 1980, at the time of the transition to action, the group numbered just over 500 people, and at the peak of its success in 1990, becoming a powerful military machine, did not exceed 3,000 members. For comparison: in 2015, during an obvious decline and degradation of the movement, the group consisted of about 350 people (of which, however, only 80 were fighters). Obviously, the point is not in numbers, but in the quality of the cadres and the adequacy of their strategy to the class interests of the workers, which they allegedly expressed and defended.
The inability and unwillingness to attract a massive influx of personnel was compensated for by a strong organizational and political preparation. About 40% of the core and senior staff were women. The main core of the future military-political personnel was already formed by 1977. One of the first “military schools” was opened in Hacienda Iribamba, which was owned by Augusta La Torre Carrasco (“Comrade Nora”), the wife of Guzman and in the future – the second person in the organization. Back in the end of 1978, in the district of Karuanka in the department of Ayacucho, the center-men found considerable support among the local Maoist-minded rural teachers. In the district, grassroots organizations were created, “folk schools” were opened – secret meetings, where selected candidates were devoted to the plans of “Sendero” and received military and political training. The latter boiled down to reading and quoting Mao’s Red Book. Rallies and gatherings were organized, where blacklists of future victims were drawn up, telephone lines connecting Caruana with other communities and counties were regularly cut off … Local authorities regularly received complaints about the actions of senderist activists and agigators, but the authorities dismissed them: they had enough problems. This greatly facilitated the actions of the Maoists.
The Stalinist statement “cadres decide everything” was brought to its absurdity. “Everything except power is an illusion,” said the key slogan of the senderists. In complete isolation and secrecy, small disciplined cells were formed, devoted to the party leadership. Of course, they were called factions and qualified (in accordance with party ideology) as separate social movements formed by the proletariat on various labor “fronts” (“Front of Revolutionary Students”, “Movement of People’s Youth”, “Movement of Poor Peasants”, etc. .). All this demagoguery was far enough from reality. In reality, it turned out that the workers were here only passive spectators of the actions of the exalted “revolutionary avant-garde”. The masses faded into the background compared with the omnipotent and omniscient party. This also affected the character of propaganda: while the parallel guerrillas constantly let themselves be heard with loud proclamations, a communique and manifestos, sender propaganda circulated mainly in the circle of “initiates.”
In April 1980, in the “First Military School” of the Communist Party of Peru-Shining Path (KPP-SP), Abimael Gusman announced the completion of the preparatory work and the start of warfare. The transition to armed struggle was marked by a kind of symbolic action. On the night of May 17, 1980, before the presidential election, a group of young activists from the provincial town of Chuschi stormed into the city council building and burned the ballot boxes along with ballots. The news of this incident was lost in the press: in the end, it was the first presidential election in 17 long years. At this time, the country was shocked by the growth of social movements and the activity of left-wing parties. Also in 1980, the United Left Front was created, the second largest parliamentary party of the coming decade. Nobody was concerned with a small handful of Maoists, who were practically in no way connected with class conflicts and mass social movements of the country. At the end of the year, activists found a different way to declare themselves and express their political position in a peculiar way: in the mornings dead dogs hung on lanterns were discovered in the capital, and the corpses of unfortunate animals accompanied the inscriptions: “Deng Xiaoping is a dog!” We can only guess what propaganda effect they expected to see. It is unlikely that anyone thought that these were the first signs of a future powerful military-political movement, which had completely shook the Peruvian state. And the war was just beginning.
As is known, for waging a successful war, a social base and an established military-technical and material infrastructure are needed. Senderists understood this perfectly. To establish his power in places where there was no state power in any way is simple enough. Enough and a few activists, recruited through family ties or personal acquaintances. They formed the so-called. “People’s committee”. His leadership, as a rule, consisted of five people, headed by a “political commissioner.” His deputies were those responsible for security, including transport, production (what to grow in one community or another for the needs of the party?), the daily affairs of the community (civil procedures: justice, marriages, funerals, etc.), and organization (the population was divided into children, boys, women, peasants, intellectuals in order to make it easier to organize training and organizational events). From time to time, the “people’s committees” were supported by the armed detachments of the party (“pillars”) that carried out punitive operations and raids. In parallel, there were secret communist cells: a few groups of three people who served as informants of the party. At a certain stage of development, the party declared the number of “people’s committees” sufficient to declare the region “base of support” (base de apoyo). How it looked can be clearly seen on a map taken from one ultra-right military magazine, which illustrates the situation on the example of the Ayacucho department.
There, all the products produced by the peasants were divided into two halves. One was left for the population, the other was requisitioned by the party for its own needs. Such uncomplicated ways were established material and social infrastructure. By 1989, 20 such bases had been created, and, moreover, 80 more “people’s committees”. All of them were umbrella-united by the Revolutionary Front for the Defense of the Village. And in parallel there were purely party cells, which were coordinated by “local committees” subordinated to “sub-zones” (sub-zonales); those, in turn, were part of the larger “zones”. The latter were subordinate to the “regional command”. These “command” due to the geographical disunity of the Peruvian provinces were quite independent. Finally, in parallel with the party there were military units and the corresponding hierarchy and zone of the “guerrilla”. Over time, especially after 198384, the military component in the party began to dominate everywhere. As for weapons, the sounderists always relied on “own strength”: small arms (pistols, rifles, machine guns) and grenades were obtained in clashes with civilian police and army units, and explosives were stolen from mines and mines, where scanners had their own insiders and informants …
Another question is whether the above is enough to wage a truly revolutionary war to transform the whole of society. Indeed, in conditions where the state, which has concentrated in its hands all the military and police power in the service of the ruling classes, always and everywhere has incomparably greater material and mobilization potential, for the partisan the mass base becomes a matter of life and death. What was the connection of the senderists with the peasants – their main social base? It cannot be said that there was no such connection – we note once again that a tiny organization, in conditions of complete isolation from the masses, would be doomed to immediate failure and defeat. Secondly, let us recall that the overwhelming majority of the active personnel of Sendero, students of schools, universities and colleges, came from the families of peasant communes. Well-established family and kinship ties, to some extent, facilitated the further involvement of rural youth in the ranks of if not active cadres of the Shining Path, then at least sympathizers and informers. The peasant youth, who had not so many chances to somehow improve their financial situation (among the possibilities – drug smuggling or “retreat” to the cities), really saw in the young revolutionaries any alternative to their not too enviable position. Ayakucho was actively spreading rumors that by 1985 the region would become a completely “liberated territory”, which means, in the long run, a state where one could become someone above the landowner peasant or farm laborer. Senderists, not belonging to the whole peasant environment, nevertheless, were familiar with its realities and for some time successfully played on the contradictions between and within rural communities and cooperatives. In this they were assisted by a debugged machine of terror and symbolic reprisals against the class opponents of the rural poor. It was necessary to harshly deal with the former local authorities, “clear the field” for new functionaries using extremely tough methods. The first blows struck the hated farmers of all kinds of resellers and merchants: a situation that exactly repeated the events of the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Local cacique, or gamonales, influential and wealthy peasants and landowners, also became victims of the senderis. It can be said that here the Maoists, on the whole, correctly groped and caught the lines of social collisions that were tearing apart the village, understood the degree of its class stratification. But senderis went much further. Punishments of alcoholics, unfaithful spouses or those who have been caught stealing were also perceived by the peasants as necessary measures restoring the usual order of life, and could cause restrained sympathy, although, as practice shows, such problems were completely controlled by rural communities independently. For the effective implementation of “justice”, young people, mainly schoolchildren, were actively involved. The party activists, the students themselves, eagerly invited their acquaintances to rallies, after some time it was incumbent on newcomers to bring 1-2 more comrades to the meetings. They gathered in different places, the meetings were long and frequent, sometimes up to two times a week. There, among other things, information was collected about thieves and cattle raiders in rural communities. The party, in turn, issued warnings; if they were ignored, then reprisals followed. The mechanism worked smoothly and created the appearance of cooperation with the peasantry. They tried to convince peasants in an accessible language that the bureaucrats and ministers sitting in Lima were public parasites. Peasants were also inspired by the idea that selling their products was bad, because it only feeds the parasitic capital regime, which benefits the working people, and it is in their interests to starve the capital. As part of the demonstration campaigns, large export-oriented farms were captured, the livestock were demonstratively slaughtered, the meat was cooked on the spot and distributed among peasants and former workers. This made a strong impression on the peasants and farm laborers. Collective work on communal lands on the procurement of agricultural products (corn, potatoes, wheat) was also initially (until 1982) perceived with enthusiasm, especially by the rural poor.
But back to our previous question. Did the Maoists have a social base? Yes, definitely. After all, we have already talked about university personnel and students of rural youth. They also had a certain percentage of sympathizers among the peasants themselves, as well as the townspeople. This is recognized and leading Peruvian analysts. One of them even ventured to suggest that if the Sendero were a “normal” political party, they would secure 20-30% of the population’s support. In 1991, according to polls, 17% of metropolitan residents justified the actions of senderista, and 7% expressed their open support. But did they have a massive social base? Probably not. If only because a minority of young people joined their ranks. It was also not possible to win the sympathy of the peasantry. This stemmed from the very principle of “Senderists” expressed in the slogan “batir el campo” – “to hit the village”. How were they perceived by the peasants? Perhaps, as aliens, alien and hostile to them, and often literally (for example, in the district of Lurikocha, where the population for the most part did not support the CAT-SP). This image seemed to be deliberately cultivated by the party. To achieve the maximum effect, the sederista often carried out their actions of intimidation at night. In some places, for this reason, they were even called “tuta puriq” – “night tramps”. Could they appear out of nowhere and during the fiestas, to which, by the way, they were extremely disapproving. This strategy, effective only in the short term, created the necessary illusion of the constant invisible presence of some sinister parallel power. Peasants expected obedience and cooperation. But what alternatives, besides the “people’s war”, could revolutionaries offer themselves? Production cooperation? Where it was possible and where the necessary logistical and social prerequisites existed, it was already widely introduced during military rule. But the peasant communes were driven to mass forced labor. The sanctions used by the Senderists boiled down to collective punishments, exemplary executions and massacres, beatings and other humiliating procedures (such as cutting off the ears or shaving off the guilty heads). Therefore, in the dry residue, they were perceived as new “seniors” who were tolerated partly because of fear, partly because the former “cartridges” were unfair and corrupt. Resistance began when the actions and demands of the senderists directly contradicted the daily peasant practice. After all, neither the ideology nor the methods used by the Maoists even minimally correlated with the expectations or ideas of the peasants. In the eyes of the senderists, the peasantry was seen as backward, autarchic, and was drawn in a simplified, non-historical dimension: among them, at best, they saw the poor, middle peasants and rich, at worst, the “good” and “bad” … caste differences (the so-called system of “war”) that existed in the Indian settlements. They ignored the complexity, inconsistency and conflict of social relations within the village, the historicity and functionality of caste and age statuses. This does not mean that this muck (as with all other manifestations of social inequality) does not need to be fought, it means that before taking any action, it is useful to understand the situation sometimes. The contemptuous and arrogant treachery of the culture of the Andean Indians had their theoretical foundations. After all, “Maoism teaches us that culture is an ideological reflection of the politics and economy of society.” But the presence of this inherently correct slogan is by no means sufficient to understand the dialectical connection of these forms of social being. Young senderists, by the way, people mostly from middle-aged families, having gained access to power in local commissariats, turned out to be outcasts in the person of the peasant majority, because such power fundamentally contradicted their usual world order. Worse, the youth, in addition to poor theoretical training, lacked any managerial and organizational experience.
Senderists actively sabotaged and disrupted campaigns and the elections themselves, killing candidates and intimidating the electorate. Having infiltrated the judicial system, they contributed to the release of their captured comrades. But despite the fact that the state was on the verge of collapse, by the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s conflicts and contradictions between senderists and peasants on the ground had reached a critical mass. The first army informants (soplones in local Spanish) appeared among the peasants. It must be said that the traditional Maoist tactics consist in retreat before the approach of large military formations of the enemy. At first, this played into the hands of the Maoists: when they left the village, they left the population to actually kill the army fiends, thereby willy-nilly, helping to preserve their fragile popularity, especially among relatives and close victims. At the same time, the absence of partisans in critical circumstances (the army, having a relatively greater military-technical and human potential, used it for mass executions and an action of intimidation) was viewed as a betrayal. Declaring the protection of peasant interests, the senderists, although perceived as “lesser evil,” actually betrayed them. Being an external force, the peasants did not perceive the Maoist ideology, trying to sit on two chairs, appealing to both the partisans and the military. This pushed the Maoists to toughen violence. Finally, in Lunakamara (Prov. Victor Farhado), where several senderists were killed in response to the ban on trade, in April 1983, the Maoists massacred more than 80 peasants. It is interesting to hear how Guzman responded to this. Calling the incident “necessity” and “excess,” he stressed that the purpose of the purge was to show the erring peasants “that we are capable of anything.” No comments. A few years later, Guzman will say that the triumph of the revolution will cost millions of victims. The logic of events ensured the deepening of the tragic break of theory and practice.
Having established themselves in Ayacucho, in the beginning of 1987, the senderists began to operate in cities. The presence of senderists was noted in Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil. Shining Path support groups and committees have appeared in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and even the United States. In 1988, the party congress announced the achievement of a “strategic balance” corresponding to the eve of the “second stage” of the people’s war of Mao Zedong. The “Fifth Military Plan”, developed by Guzman and launched in August 1989, envisaged the further development of “support bases”. Senderist newspaper El Diario awaited with anticipation the invasion of the American imperialists in order to turn the country into a “new Vietnam.” In the same year it was decided to proceed to the “second stage”. To do this, it was necessary to recruit more soldiers, supplies and heavy weapons. Last decided to purchase after a breakthrough in the valley of the river Ualga, where you could get everything you need through traffickers. Having established themselves in the valley, the senderis began to receive huge profits from the control of the drug trade, collecting taxes from intermediaries and dealers, lowering prices and encouraging those peasants who wanted to replace coca with “peaceful” cultures. Thus, here their policy was partly supported by the peasants, tired of the violence of drug gangs and the drug price spikes associated with it. In February 1990, the rebels declared 24 “support bases” in five “regional committees”. By 1991, the senderis operated on 40% of the country’s territory. About 22,000 people supplied them. But the national support, so necessary at the “second stage” of the Maoist scenario, was still not felt. Forced measures to mobilize the peasants were combined with growing violence. Senderists began to practice “roadside checks”, during which they collected tribute and carried out a kind of “bloody account” (execution of unreliable drivers and passengers). Popular discontent in 1989-90 aggravated by economic crisis and prolonged drought. Senderists actively sabotaged and disrupted campaigns and the elections themselves, killing candidates and intimidating the electorate. Having infiltrated the judicial system, they contributed to the release of their captured comrades. But despite the fact that the state was on the verge of collapse, by the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s conflicts and contradictions between senderists and peasants on the ground had reached a critical mass. The first army informants (soplones in local Spanish) appeared among the peasants. It must be said that the traditional Maoist tactics consist in retreat before the approach of large military formations of the enemy. At first, this played into the hands of the Maoists: when they left the village, they left the population to actually kill the army fiends, thereby willy-nilly, helping to preserve their fragile popularity, especially among relatives and close victims. At the same time, the absence of partisans in critical circumstances (the army, having a relatively greater military-technical and human potential, used it for mass executions and an action of intimidation) was viewed as a betrayal. Declaring the protection of peasant interests, the senderists, although perceived as “lesser evil,” actually betrayed them. Being an external force, the peasants did not perceive the Maoist ideology, trying to sit on two chairs, appealing to both the partisans and the military. This pushed the Maoists to toughen violence. Finally, in Lunakamara (Prov. Victor Farhado), where several senderists were killed in response to the ban on trade, in April 1983, the Maoists massacred more than 80 peasants. It is interesting to hear how Guzman responded to this. Calling the incident “necessity” and “excess,” he stressed that the purpose of the purge was to show the erring peasants “that we are capable of anything.” No comments. A few years later, Guzman will say that the triumph of the revolution will cost millions of victims. The logic of events ensured the deepening of the tragic break of theory and practice.
Having established themselves in Ayacucho, in the beginning of 1987, the senderists began to operate in cities. The presence of senderists was noted in Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil. Shining Path support groups and committees have appeared in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and even the United States. In 1988, the party congress announced the achievement of a “strategic balance” corresponding to the eve of the “second stage” of the people’s war of Mao Zedong. The “Fifth Military Plan”, developed by Guzman and launched in August 1989, envisaged the further development of “support bases”. Senderist newspaper El Diario awaited with anticipation the invasion of the American imperialists in order to turn the country into a “new Vietnam.” In the same year it was decided to proceed to the “second stage”. To do this, it was necessary to recruit more soldiers, supplies and heavy weapons. Last decided to purchase after a breakthrough in the valley of the river Ualga, where you could get everything you need through traffickers. Having established themselves in the valley, the senderis began to receive huge profits from the control of the drug trade, collecting taxes from intermediaries and dealers, lowering prices and encouraging those peasants who wanted to replace coca with “peaceful” cultures. Thus, here their policy was partly supported by the peasants, tired of the violence of drug gangs and the drug price spikes associated with it. In February 1990, the rebels declared 24 “support bases” in five “regional committees”. By 1991, the senderis operated on 40% of the country’s territory. About 22,000 people supplied them. But the national support, so necessary at the “second stage” of the Maoist scenario, was still not felt. Forced measures to mobilize the peasants were combined with growing violence. Senderists began to practice “roadside checks”, during which they collected tribute and carried out a kind of “bloody account” (execution of unreliable drivers and passengers). Popular discontent in 1989-90 aggravated by economic crisis and prolonged drought.
Senderists, fascinated by the illusion of “strategic balance,” again inadequately assessed, or rather, completely ignored the growth of the peasant self-defense detachments, dismissing them as insignificant intrigues of the imperialists. They realized it only by 1992. But by that time all ties with the social base had been lost. The peasants, using a network of kinship ties and useful acquaintances, fled to major cities, forming around them “belts of poverty”, “bases of support” were rapidly becoming empty, and “ghosts” were increasingly common. The reluctance to react properly to the political situation, government policy and the dynamics of class conflicts paradoxically led the Sendero to a standstill long before 1992.
Meanwhile, the pressure of the authorities increased. Conspirative apartments were opened, in January 1991, the main computer archive of the senderists was discovered. Abimael Guzman was arrested in Lima on September 12, 1992. Police entered his trail in the wealthy quarter of Surco, finding in the garbage of the house where he was hiding funds for psoriasis (a skin disease that Guzmán suffered) and empty packs of his favorite cigarettes. The following year he was sentenced to life imprisonment. In prison, the “Chairman Gonzalo” called for the senderists to lay down their arms. Began the collapse. Part of the partisans thought it necessary to surrender. Was the organization as monolithic as it appears in its own propaganda and the bourgeois press? If so, the reasons for the rapid collapse of the “Sendero” after 1992 raise a number of additional questions. So, most likely, no, and there are many reasons for this. Of course, there is no reason to doubt that the top leadership believed in the ideas propagated and propagated by it. Even in custody, many leaders did not repent and remained faithful to their Maoist principles. On the other hand, the “intermediate part” of the KPP-SP, cadres staffed by young students, although brought up in Marxist-Leninist “orthodoxy”, could also be pursued by other motives, including the key ones – the hope of access to power, influence, authority, they were so lacking in an alien and even hostile urban environment. Rural youth who joined the ranks of the Senderist militia and the “people’s committees” hoped to improve their financial situation, break out of the fetters of poverty and the “idiocy of rural life”. An ideology that is inflexible and divorced from real life always and everywhere generates such distortions. After the “chairman” was captured, the party no longer had a leader of comparable scale, determination, and dedication, who could effectively coordinate the actions of isolated and remote cells on a nationwide scale. However, the war with its inertia continued for several more years and continues, to some extent, even now, becoming more active during periods of economic crises.
The results of the actions of a handful of revolutionaries are frightening. The voluntarist experiment cost 69 thousand lives – as a rule, simple illiterate Indian peasants, who, according to the original designs of the party, were to become the basis of the “people’s war”. Many were killed by the police or the army, but 54% of those killed remained on Sendero’s conscience. How was the initial success possible? Not so much by the strength of the movement as by the weakness of the state. In other words, without having taken root in the rural environment and not becoming an expression of the interests of the peasantry, dogmatically-minded communist activists simply parasitized on the situation in the village and the mood of the peasants. I must say that in the Ayacucho the “left segment” of the village was wary and squeamish about the Maoists. But Ayacucho, unlike other areas of the country, until 1980 did not know the powerful peasant movements and organizations. Local progressive leftist forces simply did not have any experience of confrontation with fanatical dogmatists. The only form of mass movement that was known to this region in the years preceding the war was the performances of students who demanded free access to education. This senderista and benefited. That is why the region has become the first stronghold of the “people’s war.” He suffered the greatest losses. The silent support or passive cooperation of the peasants was achieved by inertia even by the fact that the senderists even considered it necessary to figure out which of the peasants to execute or punish and for what, while the government army and the police arranged (especially in 1983-84). indiscriminate cleansing and terror bordering on ethnocide. But after the policy of the authorities changed and the peasants began to receive weapons from the government and form their own self-defense units, the days of the Maoists were numbered.
What conclusions can we draw from this? First, for the successful actions of the partisans, it is necessary to win popular support, which cannot be ensured only by bare violence. The latter becomes the main instrument of politics when the gap with the mass base has already been noted and structurally shaped. In accordance with this, revolutionary practice must correspond to the class interests of its social base, from which the revolutionary movement draws its human and material resources. Secondly, a revolution cannot be brought closer or brought to life by a spell, undermining power lines or a catchy political slogan. Vulgar- “Hevarist” ideas that the actions of a group of revolutionaries themselves can provoke a revolutionary situation should be discarded. For the successful implementation of the strategy is not enough conscious actions of a group of well-trained revolutionaries. If the political regime opposed to it is sufficiently consolidated and stable, then targeted attacks by revolutionaries will only lead to senseless human sacrifices and to discredit revolutionary Marxism. Adequate actions of a revolutionary organization in a revolutionary situation are needed, which presupposes a careful and critical analysis of the alignment of class forces in the country and the appropriate choice of adequate revolutionary methods. In implementing a revolutionary strategy in Peru, models consciously focused on Mao’s samples were chosen. They cannot be denied practicality; therefore, revolutionaries, people from backward agrarian countries and regions, found them simple and attractive. Their ultimate goal was to conquer political power by creating and expanding the material base (partisan infrastructure) and parallel local and regional authorities.
But a conscious effort to revolutionize society, multiplied by uncritical testing of a strategy that was born in other circumstances and was suitable for other social conditions, led to opposite results. An associate of Che Guevara Regi Debre somewhere quotes Fidel Castro, in which he admits that, fortunately for himself, he got acquainted with Mao’s revolutionary strategy after the victory of the Cuban revolution. And in these words there is a certain bit of bitter truth. Skillful actions of a small detachment of Cuban revolutionaries wedged into the unstable balance of the class forces of the country, responded flexibly and adequately to the changing military-political situation in the country and sensitively tracked the mood and behavior of other classes (urban bourgeois and small peasantry), with whom they managed to establish cooperation to fight Batista regime.
The example of “Sendero Luminoso” is the opposite – a deep transformation of the communist underground into a secret armed sect, detached from the masses and existing solely due to its own military and material infrastructure.
The inability to find the springs of class struggle and become the vanguard of revolutionary politics leads to the fact that such organizations invariably lose to the military-police apparatus of the state, which has immeasurably greater resources to suppress their opponents. For the forces of social liberation, this experience is important and must be studied in order to draw the necessary conclusions and avoid mistakes in the future. It is no less dangerous and unnecessary to idealize the Latin American guerrilla, in which even such qualitative resources as Saint-Just are noticed. What positive examples can be opposed to the criticism expressed? As for the Maoists, the recent success of the Maoist Communist Party in Nepal was a positive example of a well-applied strategy. The situations in both countries (Nepal and Peru) were strikingly similar. By the start of the “people’s war” in 1996, half of the national income of Nepal was controlled by 10% of the population, while more than 90% of Nepalis were below the absolute poverty line, and more than 60% of the population remained illiterate; 81% was engaged in a rather primitive agriculture. All attempts by governments to bring the country out of poverty through loud “five-year plans” turned out to be a complete failure. Just like in Peru, in Nepal the “people’s war” did not break out spontaneously, but was a planned action by the Maoist organization. The success of the people’s war, therefore, depended entirely on the choice of a competent revolutionary strategy, creatively adapted to the specific conditions of a particular country.
MARIA DOLORES MALER
CHAIRMAN OF THE “INDEPENDENT MARXIST-LENIN STUDENT UNION LIMA”
CONSTANT RESPONDENT RESISTENTIAM.COM – IN PERU