Global reaction led by the U.S. and its mainstream press try to portray the Communist Party of Peru (PCP) as the most blood thirsty group in the Americas. Baselessly, they compare the PCP to Pol Pot. This contention is easily refutable. First, Pol Pot was never a Maoist, second Pol Pot's group was never led by a Communist Party, third Pol Pot was a pawn of the Chinese. Therefore, the Pol Pot imputation has no basis in law and fact at all.
The PCP applies the science of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM) to the specific conditions of Peru to change an oppressive and exploitative system, this is known as Gonzalo Thought. There are components of the People's War that have universal validity (e.g., militarization of the Party, proletarian leadership), but there are peculiarities that are being applied to Peruvian society that may not be applied necessarily in other countries, specially in the imperialist countries. The understanding of these general and specific particularities will allow us to set-forth the correct line to implement a revolutionary tactic and strategy.
Revolutionary violence guided by MLM, applied by the people and people's army which is led by a Communist Party is the most important component to achieve victory and to build the new order. In similar fashion, reaction applies reactionary violence on the people by using similar tactics everywhere and emphasizing their own particularities. Let's analyze one example of reaction's psycho-social campaign in facing revolution: "The fight against revolutionary violence" disguised as "the fight against terrorism." Let's look at the "mindless" violence attributed to the FMLN of El Salvador as compared to the violence attributed to the PCP which leads the People's War.
In the 80's, the State Department and Americas' Watch (now known as Rights Watch) used to impute charges of "terrorism", "indiscriminate violence", "vicious killers" to the FMLN in El Salvador.
Americas Watch's hand-book El Salvador's Decade of Terror  charges the FMLN for selective assassinations and group killings and also for the use of land mines which killed about 20 civilians a year. In 1985, the FMLN killed 97 "non-combatants" including members of civil patrols, mayors and other elected officials and informers.
Killing Mayors: The New York Times reported on Jan. 9, 1989 that "At least 35 mayors resigned in the last month after eight others were killed in a nationwide offensive against civilian authority." The article goes on to point out that the Church and "even many leftists who have been sympathetic to the rebels in the past have denounced it [the killing and intimidation of mayors] as nothing more than terrorism.'
Americas' Watch stated: "The number of civilians killed by the FMLN continued to rise before its November 1989 offensive, and because the number committed by the armed forces and their allied paramilitary forces decreased, the disparity in the number of killings on each side was not very great." [page 70]
Comparatively, we will use the following Americas Watch reports on Peru: 1) October 1984, 2) September 1985, 3) September 1986, 4) October 1988; and their book 5) Peru Under Fire 1992. Americas Watch charges the PCP for selective assassinations, group killings, and bombings. The PCP targets people who function as part of state apparatuses such as governors, mayors, etc. For example, in 1989 Americas's Watch claim: "Sendero assassinated 10 governors and lieutenant-governors, six engineers and officials of development projects, ["Agricultural technicians and development workers are not bothered by Sendero as long as none of them are installed as authorities or attempt to represent the government." --page 33, Sept. 1986] seven judicial officials, and nineteen other public officials.... From January through October 46 mayors were killed by Sendero, and a further 263, facing death threats, resigned."[page 65, 1992]
Peru is a much larger country than El Salvador with more than four times the population, so if we multiply the 8 mayors killed by the FMLN in the last part of 1988 by four we get 32, which we can compare to the 46 mayors executed by the PCP in the first 9 months of 1989.
As it was done in El Salvador, in Peru the insurgents do everything they can to destroy civil defense patrols (rondas.) These patrols - from the fascists in rural Italy in the 1920's through the Chinese revolution in the 30's and 40's, Vietnam in the 50's and 60's, Guatemala in the 70's and 80's, even in Haiti in the 90's (the infamous Macoutes, Attaches and Section Chiefs) are the back-bone of the military's counterinsurgency program.
Thus, it is not surprising that the majority of rural "civilian" dead attributed to the PCP are members of these civil patrols (rondas.)
Like in El Salvador, in Peru the "forces of order" killed indiscriminately much more than the selective executions of the insurgents did, as the war progressed the killing by the armed forces become more blatant in Peru. However, according to the Peruvian government (one party in the conflict), the PCP was responsible for 1,526 deaths and the "forces of order" 1,598. [see pp. 14,15, and 19, 1992]
Although the PCP is very different politically from the FMLN, Sandinistas, et al., there is no difference in substance in the use of revolutionary violence by the FMLN and the PCP. So why does the PCP gets such heat for the use of revolutionary violence?
To solve this mystery, let us look at the first four Americas Watch reports on Peru to see if there is any evidence to back up the assertions, which appears on the first page of their first report. They state that, "In Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) the country faces the most brutal and vicious guerrilla organization that has yet appeared in the Western hemisphere." [Oct. 1984] before quoting at length the "proof" of the above statement we must note that on page 42 this resort informs us that the Peruvian military: "Announced that the only source of information on military operations will be the armed forces themselves." If we couple this statement with the one from the New York Times, Sept. 2, 1984, "Disinformation is part of the military's strategy", these points should make us think carefully about our sources. Below is a pearl of such disinformation campaign generated by the Peruvian armed forces and reported as "neutral report" by America's Watch:
Sendero began to target  certain local groups -- policeman, landowners, government officials, loan sharks, merchants, and informants -- in Ayacucho. Senderistas staged "popular trials" and executions. This initially strengthened their popularity among the Indians, many of whom held officials in contempt. In September 1982, over 30,000 people crowded the streets of Ayacucho to mourn Edith Lagos, a "fallen comrade," allegedly tortured and murdered by the police. The rally was indicative of the popular support Sendero enjoyed at that time.
Yet, as Sendero began to control "liberated Zones" of Ayacucho in late 1982, it imposed its anti-technology, subsistence peasant model that, along with its brutality, has led the group to be compared to Pol Pot's reign of terror in Cambodia. Sendero closed regional markets; forced peasants to plant only enough for their own subsistence; and brutally killed those who opposed them. Sendero has destroyed tractors, and an experimental farm in the University of Huamanga which developed livestock and grains for local production. The group has also destroyed factories, apparently without considering how this might affect urban workers, who hardly seem to exist in Sendero's scheme of things. As Sendero has implemented its own kind of terror, some of its support has waned, yet its strength apparently has not. [pp. 67-68, Oct. 1984]
This is all they have to say on the PCP in the first report. These are very revealing paragraphs of the role played by America's Watch.
Sendero has persisted in its tactic of conducting exemplary executions of civilians considered to be representatives of the bourgeoisie or of the government. In addition, Sendero has continued to force civilians to join it or contribute to its efforts. It remains difficult, however, to determine the scope and extent of these practices. [page 27, Sept. 1985]
That's it for the second report. Please note that the word "Sendero" could be changed to the FMLN and thus prove our point.
The third report states that Sendero killed police informers and collaborators as well as publicly punishing cattle rustlers, drunkards adulterers, etc., also that in 1986 Shining Path started killing high up military and civilian officials in Lima.
The fourth report tells us
Sendero Luminoso... has continued to commit murder and other violations of the laws of war as a deliberate part of its strategy. This self-styled Maoist group uses terror tactics to radicalize social conflict and to pitch rural communities against each other. It murders elected or appointed local officials as well as anyone it believes to be cooperating with the security forces. [page 4, 1988]
Sendero Luminoso, engage in a pattern of violations of the laws of war.... The resort to such methods, particularly when alternative democratic avenues are open, is an act of provocation, designed to elicit a violent response on the part of the state. [pp. 80-81, 1988]
This is the evidence and it shows that the PCP just like Che Guevara in Bolivia or Castro and his rag-tag- band in Cuba (Castro in the 60's) or Lenin in Petrograd, all armed movements use "terror" as part of the struggle. But the facts in these reports, and in the works of the Senderologists too, are often at odds with their much quoted but rarely substantiated assertions.
The first interesting point to notice is there is absolutely no documentation given for any of these assertions. There was one academic article which Americas Watch could have cited as evidence that Cynthia McClintock's Sendero Luminoso Published in Problems of Communism in Oct. 1983. She states:
It is virtually certain that many peasants did become disillusioned with Sendero. Apparently, once the guerrillas gained control of large areas in 1982, they began to show their fanatical colors. They imposed planting quotas on local communities so that there would be nothing to sell to the cities. They closed down weekly markets as forms of capitalist exchange. They became more random and more ruthless in their assassinations of traitors and informants. [page 32]
But if Americas Watch had done their homework they would have used Colin Harding's Notes on Sendero Luminoso published in Communist Affairs Jan. 1984 as a counter point. Harding states:
There is, nevertheless, little evidence that the rural population turned against Sendero in large numbers. Reports of large- scale confrontations between villagers and guerrillas, and massacres by Sendero in revenge for betrayals, are largely unverifiable. In other words, never existed. Few bodies, names or photographs of supposed victims have been produced, and visits by independent observers are not allowed [by the Peruvian armed forces]. The guerrillas' response to the formation of peasant patrols or militia has been to execute their leaders, and to make it known to the villagers that soplones (informers) will be dealt with summarily. But accounts of pillage, rape and murder by Sendero do not ring true; their executions have been highly selective as a matter of policy, and terrorizing the peasants would be counter-productive.
Reports that Sendero has lost much of the support it initially gained among the campesinos by such tactics as closing down local markets and forcing villagers to adopt an autartic 'war economy' or forcibly recruiting young men, should be treated cautiously. [paze 48l
What is the PCP's alleged "anti-technology, subsistence peasant model"? This point is essential. The PCP does not worship capitalist technology but neither do they dream of going back to the non-existent paradise. Their views on technology, self-reliance, and breaking from the capitalist as well as the state bureaucratic type of development are interesting and exploring and debating these ideas would be more fruitful than the uninformed denouncing of their alleged dogmatism.
And what about Pol Pot? David Scott Palmer who advises the US government on Peru stated in a book he edited, The Shining Path of Peru, 1992, that "Shining Path uses terror to further its revolutionary ends but is not a terrorist movement. The insurgency has rarely engaged in indiscriminate violence and should not be compared with Pol Pot." [page 244]
I think a little anecdote will help put the issue of "terror" in perspective. This story was about street kids in Lima which appeared in the Washington Post on Jan. 9, 1993. The line that struck remembrance was when the reporter quotes one of these kids, named Ricardo, as saying that he would like to kill rich people. Before he joined the Party he would go out of his way to cause problems for rich people. He was born and raised in Lima's slums and saw no way out of his horrid life. He hated the rich. Few years later, he was become a member of the PCP and was in jail. He no longer hated rich people. It was quite surprised to see he now hated and understood the social relations that produced the injustice that was his existence. He had learned all of this from the PCP. This patriot was murdered along with three hundred of his comrades by the genocidal armed forces in the 1986 prison massacre. The point is that the PCP does not ferment the violence it just channels it.
On 01/29/93 Robin Kirk, an ex-paralegal now working under the guise of being a "consultant" or "journalist" along with others "reporters" are tied-up to the U.S. intelligence community in Peru (among others are Gabriela Gamini, Calvin Sims of the Times) was the author of Americas Watch Reports on Peru. Kirk wrote the tale, "The Shining Path on Violence and Human Rights." Kirk is very loose with her facts. She states, "Since 1982, the Shining Path has murdered over 800 local mayors." She cites no source. From 1980 thru and including 1989 6,386 civilians were killed according to the Peruvian government and cited in Americas Watch 1992 (page 14). These civilians were killed by both sides, and given the nature of the war the majority were killed by the armed forces but for purposes of argument, let's say that a small portion of it was executed by the PCP during the decade of war. 1989 is the only year we have numbers on mayor killings and also according to Americas Watch it was PCP's most violent year. In 1989 were held municipal elections, in that year throughout Peru the PCP led a very successful campaign to get mayors to resign and to leave their posts vacant. In many municipalities, there were no candidates participating in the elections. During this battle the PCP executed 52 mayors who were involved in the counterinsurgency campaign up to the neck. The Peruvian Government claims that PCP killed 1,500 people that year. Thus, less than 4% of the deaths attributed to the PCP in 1989 were mayors and this was a year that the insurgency targeted mayors. If we take 5,000 as the total number of military, informants and corrupt people executed by the PCP during the war, 4% of 5,000 is only 200, well short of Ms. Kirk's 800 number. My point is that these people, like Kirk, say all sorts of unsubstantiated things, mass up numbers and give only one or two examples, one of them always being Moyano, the "patron saint" of the Peruvian bourgeoisie, and because everyone says it -- it must be true. Those of us who question the official story (not only on Peru but everywhere where imperialism intervenes) are dismissed with great contempt, that everyone knows....
Ms. Kirk eulogizes Moyano and has a huge poster at her office in DC: "Born in poverty, Moyano fought to get an education and help her community, the people of Villa El Salvador. She was a radical feminist, a brilliant, articulate woman who believed in peace. Yes, she supported the formation of local civil patrol groups (rondas urbanas)." The PCP is full of women who were born in poverty that fought and struggled to get an education and used that education in the service of their community.
There are countless of radical feminists, who are brilliant and articulate in the PCP. But unlike Moyano they chose to destroy the old rotten Peruvian society which is responsible for their oppression and the oppression of the vast majority of Peruvians. Moyano supported the armed forces in their attempt to form urban civil patrols in the slums of Lima to defend the old reactionary State from the People's War. Therefore, she was an active participant in the counterinsurgency effort.
Lastly, Ms. Kirk fabricates several "PCP sources" on the topics of armed struggle and bourgeois right.
On bourgeois right she invents quotes of PCP's Chairman Gonzalo (in the same style the regime invents Guzman's videos and letters of Peace) She alleges the PCP sustains: human rights = bourgeois rights and thus they are reactionary, etc.. The fact that the PCP --strictly speaking-- is correct, does not seem to trouble her. For both Marxist [e.g.., Lukcas and Della Volpe] and non-Marxist [e.g.., Cassirer] scholars know that the rights of man had an ideological position that is used by the bourgeoisie in its struggle against the ancient regime. Kant [remember Chairman Gonzalo is a Kant scholar] and Rousseau were the most militant promoters of the rights of man. The debate is not whether human rights are bourgeois but how do those of us who want to do away with bourgeois society deal with bourgeois right. Sartre, for example, spent a great deal of his death bed interview on this very question. [an English translation can be found in Telos # 441]
If Kirk was honest, she would have quoted the ideas on this issue of Mao Tse-Tung, Ho Chi Minh, Lenin or anyone who supports revolutionary violence. But, instead she quotes the Peruvian military, the Senderologists and an unidentified "western intelligence officer" as her official sources.
The PCP not only developed the third ideological stage of today's Marxism: Maoism, but also it change completely the political discourse of the 80's and 90's. Progressives in the world used to cry "for no more Vietnams," the PCP sustained: "create two, three, many Vietnams, with people's war."
Americas Watch says PCP's violence is wrong because "alternative democratic avenues are open." [Oct. 1988, page 81] But where do those paths lead? To reform or to revolution? This is the real question. What is revolution and what is reform? What is possible, what is desirable, and for whom? What is the end result of these "alternative avenues" explored in more than a century in Peru and Latin America? To more poverty and misery, to exploitation and sell-out of the country, to more genocide and to the "peace of cemeteries", to the digging of more mass graves by the army at dawn every time the people protest. People want revolution, real change not a mockery of "democracy."
Americas Watch do not believe that armed struggle is justified in Peru. But, the whole point here is that the PCP use of violence is within the revolutionary norms of an internal conflict. The real debate in the left in the world should be between the peaceful versus the violent road to revolution. For the PCP, Mao's assertion that "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun" is true.
There are three points that anti-PCP bourgeois intellectuals like to raise. None of their contentions are substantiated with facts but are propaganda to prevent support to the PCP. The first one is that PCP changed its policy in 1988 from selective targets such as agents posing as developmental workers who represented the state to "the systematic killing of developmental workers in all positions." However, Americas Watch, or the State Department, do not mention that PCP had changed its policy vis-a-vis developmental workers.
The second point is their claim that the security forces have captured Chairman Gonzalo, 95% of leaders are dead or in jail, 5,000 cadres have repented, therefore, the PCP is strategically defeated. The number of 5,000 repentant matches the State Department figure that the total number of PCP members has been 5,000. So, that may be truth only in their dreams. By using basic math, there is no revolution any longer in Peru. The facts and actions of the PCP reply in kind to the reactionaries. The true of the matter is that the people's war continues countrywide strong as ever, its new political leadership and the historical military leadership are intact and enjoy wide popular support. The third point raised is that they believe there was a real war in El Salvador, while in Peru they think the armed struggle is just "terrorism." It should be recalled that the armed struggle in El Salvador started in 1972. The so- called "real" war did not start until 1981 with the ill-fated final offensive (nine years of just terrorism?). You will also remember that with the fall of Nicaragua's Somoza in 1979 and the apparent paralyses of the Carter administration toward the crisis in Central America, the Salvadorean Government collapsed. A coup by so-called progressive military men and some leftist civilians filled the formal vacuum of government. The Junta kept moving to the right while the military was killing thousands of Salvadoreans a month. All of this led to Insurrections in a number of slums around San Salvador. At the same time a great deal of support for the these forces was coming from Moscow, Cuba and Nicaragua. This aid, both material and political, played an essential role in the formation of the FMLN and in preparing the offensive which while it failed to win victory, left the FMLN with an army of 5,000 to 10,000. The Salvadorean armed forces numbered about 50,000.
In Peru the PCP started the Armed Struggle in 1980 with a few weapons, no army, no patrons. By 1982, PCP was able to bring together at least 500 fighters to take over the city of Ayacucho for a night to free over 100 prisoners from jail. The PCP formed the EGP [Peoples Guerrilla Army] which continues to grow which now has become in Popular liberation Army. It is estimated by Peruvian Armed Forces to have about 15,000 combatants. The repressive forces number about 400,000. There have been several battles with over 100 combatants on each side. The EGP does not court disaster by fighting a conventional war against a vastly superior force. After all, they apply the science of Maoism to seize power.
Gordon McCormick in a study for the U.S. Defense Department titled From the Sierra to the Cities [RAND 1992] states:
By mid-1980's it was apparent that the nature of Sendero's objectives in the city had begun to change from simple interest in armed propaganda to a more long-range interest in building an enduring base of popular support, backed by a developed, grass roots organization.....
The new attention given to organization building in Lima and a handful of other coastal cities was evident in many of the major towns of the sierra, most notably in Ayacucho city and the department capitals of the central highlands. Sendero's regional strategy, in each case, was now based on a dual program to close the local center of government from the interior while extending the movement's scope of organization and operations within and around the city limits. While elements of this program were to be operationally independent, each was believed to support the other. By keeping the army and police occupied in the cities, the urban underground would relieve government pressure on the primary locus of the movement's advance, which was in the countryside. Similarly, as Sendero consolidated its rural position and began to disrupt urban access to the hinterland, the regime's political and military position within the cities could be expected to deteriorate....
The end game of this plan is likely to involve an attempt to sever the capital's lines of communication with the interior and physically isolate the regime.... The first part of this plan is already well advanced. Large portions of the central and southern sierra have fallen under effective SL control.....
In sum, it is a real People's War.
Some "progressive" groups in the U.S. that oscillate between social democracy and Marxism (Workers World, SWP, CPUSA) and two groups that claim to be "Maoists" (RCP, MIM) have a total lack of political perspective. The first group goes from blunder to blunder and have never practiced self-criticism after they supported Gorbachev and social imperialism, they waste energy and huge resources in supporting reactionary causes that they may innocently or deliberately believe those are correct struggles. The second group with similar work style as the first group but are unprincipled and opportunists to the core. They state they would rather support Aristide in Haiti, the ANC in South Africa, the Workers Party in Brazil, Zapatistas, struggle to embolden capitalism in Cuba aka call for U.S. investments in Cuba. We say that Aristide had to rely on US Imperialism guns to restore him to power and indeed he has became its puppet. And that after the ANC won the elections in South Africa, a coalition government with the very racists thugs of apartheid was formed. Who own and control the mines and factories in south Africa? The Workers Party in Brazil has no solution to the Allende dilemma - - it is a loose foam of electoral politicians who are being disintegrated after they lost the election, on Zapatistas (struggle for clean elections) and Cubans (return to the family of nations under uncle Sam)...make your judgments, soon we shall see the end results. How do you radically transform the structures of society to benefit the masses without being crushed by the armed power of the bourgeoisie? Like it or not political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
Ediciones La Nueva Bandera
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