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Shining Path

Gonzalo and People's War

Harsh Thakor

It was the Peruvian Communist Party (PCP) that was the pioneer in resurrecting the flame of Chairman Mao after the defeat of the Chinese Socalist State by launching the people's war in 1980. It not only synthesised Maoism in light of Peru but gave a moral leadership to all the people's wars or Maoist parties in the world. No movement struck such a mortal blow to the roots of revisionism and imperialism as this one in the last 4 decades.

No doubt Chairman Gonzalo is the greatest Marxist-Leninist-Maoist leader after Chairman Mao. He may be languishing in prison but the inextinguishable flame of his historic speech in jail in 1992 shimmers all over the globe till today. This year is the 30th anniversary year when 'Maoism' was elevated to a 3rd and 'Gonzalo thought' was officialy established which marked a historical epoch in Communist history. Unlike several Maoists this writer defends 'Gonzalo thought' as an instrumental part of developing the massline in Peru and an equivalent to the nation what the 'thought of Mao Zedong' was to China in 1945. The intensity of the Shining Path Struggle reached the height of the people's war against America in Vietnam in the late 1960's. The western media often slandered the Shining Path movement for committing atrocities which was effectively refuted by intellectuals. Chairman Gonzalo above all practised the massline. In spite of varying conditions from China with great ingenuity and originality Gonzalo applied the path proscribed by chairman Mao of encircling the cities. Meticulous efforts were made to educate party cadre. Heroic miltary actions were performed but almost always not at the sacrifice of massline and demarcating from Che Guevarist foco-ism. Even after Guzman was arrested the Protracted People's War (PPW) was still at its height and even closer to toppling the state. One of the things the party was successful at was internal education; it is pretty amazing that a second generation of leadership were immediately ready to step into the void left by the arrested leadership. What was remarkable was that in the very belly of Imperilaist power America and in an era where no Socialist Country existed the PCP made such a spectacular advance.

Gonzalo and the PCP didn't found Maoism, but served as the primary source of synthesising Maoism into the higher stage of ideological development that it has become. Just like Marx didn't found Marxism, Chairman Gonzalo maintains that there is a qualitative leap from Mao Zedong Thought to Maoism; and this is expressed particularly in the recognition of the universal applicability of Mao's and the Chinese communists' contributions to communist theory and practice. 'Gonzalo Thought' was adopted organically through organised two-line struggle within the Party - beginning with defense against attacks on Mariategui early on in the Party, then by standing against Paredes and his "Patria Roja" group, against the fake and anti-Party "Bolsheviks" within the Party and finally in support of the Initiation of Armed Struggle in 1979-1980. As mentioned earlier, all revolutions and revolutionary movements have produced leaders. To deny this is to deny history. Chairman Gonzalo gave due respect to every facet of Maoism when leading the people's war be it on question of people's organisations, military line, party building, mass line or democratic centralism.

The PCP took the Maoist concept of protracted People's War to a level or stage never reached since the Chinese Communist party in the 1940's. In 1988 it virtually reached a point where it was literally on the brink of capturing state power. In no country since China in 1949 had a Communist party come so close to toppling the state and establishing revolutionary parallel people's power in such depth. The PCP came so close to toppling the fascist regime in Peru due to the fact that it appealed not only to the most marginalised sectors of Peruvian society—women, indigenous people, the peasantry, with its land reforms, attempts at gender equality, etc.—but in general broad sectors of the masses. The PCP had even infiltrated the armed forces. Gary Leupp (Monthly Review, March 1993), quoting a Peruvian sociologist, notes that the PCP was the largest political Party in Peru with about 100,000 members. A PCP controlled trade union, the MOTC, led most of the strikes in Lima.

PCP brilliantly blended de-centralisation and centralistaion in the military strategy with proper planning and methodology. Based on this understanding PCP Chairman Gonzalo established the axes, sub-axes, and the directions and lines of movement, so as to maintain the strategic direction of war. This was done after a thorough study of history of social relations, wars, political, military and economic conditions, terrain etc. Next on the basis of this National Military Plan was formulated, which was strategically centralised and tactically decentralised guided by the Maoist understanding of linking strategy and tactics, strategic operational plans were formulated.

Every committee below it formulated their own strategic operational plans based on the central strategic operational plan followed by the entire party. All military plans are based on thorough reconnaissance and careful study of the situation of the enemy and revolutionary forces, and are guided by the political strategy and the military strategy. The strategic centralisation and tactical decentralisation gives full play to the lower committees to decide specific struggles to be carried out in their area, based on the guidelines.

Great emphasis was placed on the mass line towards the building of people's mass organisations and armed struggle was only launched after the seeds were sown through a protracted preparation period from 1968-78 when party schools were formed. In a most dialectical way the rightist trend of open functioning and the leftist trend of over emphasising fascism and abandoning mass activity was fought. The PCP brilliantly blended Maoism in the context of the Peruvian nation or Latin America. Revolutionary Peasant Committees sprouted from 1982 with revolutionary democratic depth almost on par with that of the CCP base areas in the 1940's. Land was seized from landlords and distributed to poor peasants, relying on the massline. From building peasant committees guerilla Zones were built into base areas.

In 1986 the people's war entered the phase of building base areas. New revolutionary political power was created. People's Committees were established taking into account the subjective forces. The Committees comprised 5 members called commissioners. They were chosen by representatives of the village level organsations of poor peasants, labourers, women, intellectuals, youth and children.

In towns the party exhibited creativity at it's highest zenith while developing secret and open mechanism to support the people's war. Chairman Gonzalo brilliantly analysed the complexities of Peru which had a significantly larger urban population than in the rural areas and much more neo-colonial infiltration than most 3rd world countries. In spite of superpower America being its neighbour it displayed an aura of invincibility for a decade. In 1983 the PCP had formed the Organising Committee for a New Democratic People's Republic. In the cities, with the situation different from the villages a Revolutionary People's Defence Movement was created with the goal of mobilising the masses to resist and to raise their struggles to a higher level—people's war. Shanty town dwellers were mobilised. The Revolutionary People's Defence Movement called for armed shutdowns in Ayacucho lasting 3 days in 1988.

The armed shutdowns later rocked Lima and the capital was shaken in November 1989 and March 1990. On the eve of the November strike, the traditional day of the dead about 3000 families of the prisoners of war marched into Lima in honour of the fallen heroes of the people's war. On 21st August another shutdown was launched following Fujimori's price hikes with leafleting at markets, factories, schools etc.

The 1988 document of the PCP 'Organization of the Masses' part of 'Re-affirmation of the principle that Masses make History' revealed depth of mass line towards carrying 2-line struggle to combat left liquidation and rightist liquidation or legalism, balancing centralisation with de-centralisation, differentiating open and secret party work applying Lenin and Mao, building genuine mass organisations in cities and countryside keeping the party clandestinely, preparing for initiation of people's war, combining mass and military work, building the people's guerilla as the principal organisation as well as people's war as the principal form of struggle and giving the cutting edge to the Communist Party. The final note about the qualitative leap of party mass work in the document sums up the achievements. Massline was reflected at its highest depth in every phase of re-constitution of the party, phase of initiating armed struggle, and consolidating base areas in people's war, comparable to that of the Chinese Communist Party when waging armed struggle. Below are some important excerpts:
Chairman Gonzalo fought against revisionism which led the masses towards electoralism and against revolutionary violence in order to preserve the old order.

He fought against Patria Roja, a form of revisionism which trafficked, as it does today, with the slogan "power grows from a barrel of a gun", negating semi-feudalism, centering on the petty-bourgeoisie, especially students and teachers. He also defeated the right liquidationism that diluted the Party's leadership among the masses, preaching legalism and saying everything could be done through the Peasant Confederation of Peru (CCP), that the peasants didn't understand confiscation but they did understand expropriation, and that the fascist and corporative measures of the Velasco government should be deepened.

He founded the character, content and role of the Generated Organisms applying Lenin's thesis on a clandestine Party and points of Party support among the masses, learning from the Chinese experience in open and secret work. He specified the necessity, in order to develop the Reconstitution of the Party, of opening the Party to the masses more. In order to reach agreement upon and carry out this policy he had to defeat the left liquidationism that began from the notion that fascism sweeps everything away, aiming at the Party's extinction by isolating it from the masses.

With the defeat of the left liquida-tionist line the ties with the masses grew and People's Schools began to be formed, schools which politicised the masses with the conception and line of the Party, which played an important role in the agitation and propaganda by linking the struggle for re-vindications with the struggle for political Power.

Sadly in 1992 Peruvian Revolution received a reversal of 360 degrees after the arrest of chairman Gonzalo and the release of 'peace' letters.

There is every reason to doubt whether Gonzalo wrote the peace letters in Jail after 1992 when the other party central committee leaders wished to continue the armed struggle. Not that the entire party leadership immediately assumed that the peace-letters were correct. The statements that supposedly came from Gonzalo were eventually used in the way they were. It was rather telling that they were close to overthrowing the state and then suddenly, after the peace letters, the People's War began to decline. The revolution in Peru did not fail because of its military strategy—indeed, as even the rightist Senderologists claim, it would have succeeded had it continued—but because the PCP splintered, with large parts of the organisation acceding to the call for peace talks, due to the arrest of the central committee.

Erroneously the PCP upheld concept of protracted People's War as a Universal concept and that the Russian Revolution was a part of People's War. The CCP had propounded concept of protracted People's war only for liberating the 3rd world countries where condition existed similar to China evaluating the terrain. In cities of America or Europe there are no mountains or forest areas for a red army to launch a people's war and state machinery is too fortified for the cities to be encircled. The capitalist model of production and bourgeois parliament do not facilitate it. In such areas there are no avenues for the people's army to retreat and camouflage themselves. Erroneosuly PCP and Gonzalo equated the armed struggles in Serbia or Ireland as protracted people's war. Even if insurrection may not be deployed in developed countries in the classical sense as by the Bolsheviks in Russia a century ago the military strategy will be far closer to the Russian than the Chinese path. It's incorrect to reconcile the Gonzalite view that the Russian revolution practised path of people's war—the October Road had a distinct path. Certain aspects of Maoist military theory can be incorporated in armed struggles even in developed countries with its laws being universal but that does not imply the universality of People's War. Portraced People's War is basically applicable to semi-colonial countries and if errors occurred in practice as in Nepal and Peru it was due to treading on insurrection path and deviating from People's War strategy.

Mao's Thought has been put to the test by history and practice but whether Gonzaloism is universally applicable is debatable, where or which countries have reached socialist revolution with Gonzalo's strategy? There is Philippine, Nepal, India.... nowhere revolutionaries subscribed to Gonzalo's strategy.

In fact today with the intervention of globalisation, production relations are very complex with imperialism and capitalism operating and influencing feudalism in 3rd world countries on a much greater scale. Arguably protracted People's War cannot copy the Chinese path classically even if there are strong similarities. The neo-colonial influence of capital is far greater today on the 3rd world than it was in the days of China's liberation struggle in the 1940's. Development of computer technology and automation in the 3rd world is also a very significant factor. Even if still semi-feudal and semi-colonial they have different charasterictics from China of the 1940's. People's War will have to be developed in a form suitable to the concrete situation in the aftermath of globalisation.

Frontier
Vol. 51, No.9, Sep 2 - 8, 2018