To keep our red flag flying in Peru

 

 

READINGS

 

MLM Line Struggle concerning the struggle in the International Communist Movement on the role of Chairman Gonzalo

 

#3

Documentary material on radical themes & occurrences

 

INTRODUCTION

The inspirational struggle unleashed in Peru last century still reverberates, and for all its complexities, it generates debate and confrontations that shape contemporary revolutionary politics. The Communist Party of Peru were commonly referred to as the Shining Path. That struggle did not begin with its armed phase in 1980, nor 1970 when independent of the Communist Party of Peru — Bandera Roja (red flag), itself formed in 1964, from a split in the revisionist Peruvian Communist Party. Its origins and period of preparation contain valuable experiences to draw upon, however these postings singularly focus on exploring the contentious evaluation of the role of the imprisoned Chairman Gonzalo. Using participants’ contributions, it illustrates the issues and positions that set the polemical texture as they sought “to keep our red flag flying in Peru.”

In a sense, the international communist movement had had a Peruvian shadow, having to address questions it raised. The 21st century legacy of the armed struggle initiated in the remote countryside of Peru in 1980 was that it raised major questions for revolutionaries throughout the world.

  • It raised the ideological threshold for what constituted Mao’s contribution
  • It suggested a Peruvian template for preparation and laying the foundations for a higher stage of struggle
  • It renew consideration of what constituted the strategic line of protracted people’s war
  • It provided a contentious model of a militarised party organisation
  • It evaluated the idea of leadership with the concept of Guiding Thought
  • It tangentially inspired a minor Third wordlist/Lin Biaoist revival
  • In its disintegration it provides assessment and evaluation to correct the practice of ongoing struggles

To keep our red flag flying in Peru: Word & Web (Part one) 

preidente gonzalo

Access to the writings from the revolution launched in 1980 for an English language audience was limited until two avenues allowed for a wider distribution of translated material. Prior to these developments, small groups of sympathisers and internationalists had to seek out information about the struggle in Peru from specialist outlets and marginal groups, with the development of alternatives lines of communication information was democratised in the access and availability to an interested audience. These were the magazine A World To Win which published statements  issued by the Communist Party of Peru and the emergence of an internet presence in 1996.

  •  SPREADING THE WORD

It was relatively late into the struggle that translated printed material became available to a wider audience outside that of the academics and Spanish-speaking activists.

Luis Arce Borja – from El Diario Internacional published in 1989 [reprinting in 1994] the Spanish language volume, Guerra Populae en el Peru, El Pensamiento Gonzalo that collected the most important works of the CPP however some important text like the 1988 El Diario’s Interview of Chairman Gonzalo was missing from the selection, however it was circulated in pamphlet form. It was published by Committee to Support Revolution in Peru, Berkeley (1991). An earlier 156-paged English translation was produced (1989) by Red Banner Editorial House by the People’s Movement Peru of France but had a limited distribution. Likewise with the compilation CPP and Mao Tsetung published in December 1987 – the 95 paged booklet printed in the house-style using red ink.

The London-based Committee Sol Peru had Adolofo Olaechea translate a lecture given by Chairman Gonzalo and published in 1991 the pamphlet, “On the Rectification Campaign based on the study of the document ‘No to Elections! Yes to people’s War!”.

The American solidarity group, the Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru, published English translations of Develop Guerrilla Warfare issued nearly two years after the initiation of the armed struggle in May 1980, and Don’t Vote! issued in 1985 prior to the Peruvian elections. It was not until 2016, that the Utrecht-based Foreign Language Press publishing house produced the first volume of the Collected Works of the Communist Party of Peru covering the years 1968-1987. Three subsequent English-language volumes were planned. The associated website Redspark has the online access at http://library.redspark.nu/Communist_Party_of_Peru.

Promoted as the foremost MLM theoretician, Dr. Abimael Guzman Reynoso, was better known (before his arrest) by his nom de guerre President Gonzalo, chairman of the Central Committee of the CPP. Here Gonzalo Though was described as “the creative application of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism in Peru, and is, so far, the greatest attempt to develop the fourth stage of Marxism.”

While Redspark notes that “All writings of Communist Party of Peru between 1968 to 1992 are attributed to Chairman Gonzalo” since his arrest there have been internet statements and English-language pamphlets attributed to the Communist Party of Peru. Those produced by Ediciones Bandera Roja, and Français textes de langague are available from Les Éditions Soleil Rouge at http://www.bibliomarxiste.net/documents/perou/.

With “The Andes Roar” in its first issue in 1985, the RIM associated magazine, A World to Win, carried news, statements and commentary on the PCP up until its last edition in 2006. In print, this source was, as explored in part three, not so much as supplementary, but  more contentious in relationship with small circulation newsletters of the various solidarity organisations – New Flag in the USA, the London-based Committee Sol Peru, Borca’s Brussels relaunch of El Diario International (EDI), the Spanish and English language editions of MPP’s Sol Rojo / Red Sun. Especially when much of this solidarity material migrated to find expression on sympathetic websites. A World to Win , the bulletin of the IEC and Peru Action and News were produced by the same stable of activists and publication ended when the patronage of the RCP, USA was eventually withdrawn.

A contemporary feature arose as a distinctly international Gonzaloist trend is now coalescing based partly on a common position expressed in the joint statement , Defend the Life of Chairman Gonzalo ( Dec 31st, 2013) issued to mark the 21th anniversary of the speech, pronounced from a cage:

prof-ab“In all these years, we have never given up the defense of this speech and of Chairman Gonzalo, the support to the PCP, and even today, while the People’s War in Peru suffers a phase of flexure and the Party struggles to overcome it, we support the Peruvian comrades who in Peru and abroad carry on the ideology and practice and the line of the People’s War pointed out by Chairman Gonzalo, as established in the 1st Congress of the Party”

However this trend does not embrace all who express support in defence of Gonzalo as theoretician of Maoism, as is the position of Marxist Leninist Maoist Center of Belgium, and Communist Party of France (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist), co-publishers of the online journal, Communism.

And there has been the recent appearance of PPM (RC) in opposition to Red Sun magazine of the Peru People’s Movement.

Among the multitude of English language websites providing news of the struggle in Peru, the question of authorial authenticity for pronouncements attributed to the Communist Party of Peru was far from settled.

  • SURFING THE WEB

Following Guzman’s capture, supporters created the International Emergency Committee to Defend the Life of Dr. Abimael Guzman (IEC) to raise awareness of his condition as a political prisoner with good reason given the Peruvian state’s murder of Sendero Luminoso prisoners.

The emergence in April 1996 of a website associated with a US –based solidarity group, New Flag meant that official documents of the Communist Party of Peru became instantly accessible worldwide, and distributors and readers would not risk reprisals. It provided a means to combat the state’s psychological warfare. What was publicised on the site showed that Party documents confirm, for instance, that the spokespeople for the PCP believed that Guzman’s letters and videoed TV appearance in 1993 — when, in an extraordinary jail cell volte face, he appeared to admit defeat and call for peace talks — were an elaborate hoax.

An interested author observed of a visit to the (now defunct) website http://www.blythe.org/peru-pcp

“Portraits of Marx, Lenin and Mao emerged like faded ghosts on to my aged black-and-white screen. Five buttons offered routes to “Frequently Asked Questions” about the “People’s War”, as well as to the party’s documents in Spanish and English, to back issues of New Flag and information on “President Gonzalo” — the nom de guerre of Shining Path’s founder and leader, Abimael Guzman.”  [Simon Strong, Shining Path wages flame war. Financial Times, London: May 13 1996 p. 13]

This site emerged as an alternative source of information (and analysis) to the established Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru (CSRP) based in Berkeley, California, publishers of Peru Action & News and seen as a front for the RCP, USA headed by Robert Avakian.poster

While not an official site as such, Maura Conway’s study noted it had the aura of a “quasi-official nature…founded and maintained by supporters who appear to have no direct ties to the groups for whom they cheerlead.” [Maura Conway | Terrorist Web Sites: Their Contents, Functioning, and Effectiveness in Philip Seib (Ed.), Terrorism and the Media. New York: Palgrave (2005).]

Sympathizing Websites

As noted above, over the years, there have been a proliferation of Sendero related websites. There used to be just two. As internal disputes developed the dynamics of the Internet let many flowers bloom however some information and documents scanned were put on line by, say the « Maoist Document Project », on a website that does not exist anymore. There is an archive afterlife for some like the Maoist Internationalist Movement, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The CSRP site contained a section for ‘Documents of the Communist Party of Peru,’ which included numerous reports and declarations of the Central Committee, and issues of its own publication Peru Action and News, earliest available issue dated from summer 1997. Each newsletter was six to ten pages in length and contained political commentary, statements of the Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru (CSRP), news, and other information.

The site also had a large section devoted to the activities of the International Emergency Committee to Defend the Life of Dr. Abimael Guzmán (IEC) which contained reports, conference proceedings, published advertisements, leaflets, and emergency bulletins, while elsewhere on the site the text of Dr. Guzmán’s 1992 ‘Speech from a Cage’ was reproduced along with accompanying photographs.

Elsewhere on the Net in the 1990s, solidarity activists engage in flame wars — verbal lacerations — that range from the farcical to the deadly. These occur mainly on high-volume Marxism discussion lists managed from the University of Virginia in the US.

“Harriet” , one of the main protagonists  signed her letters with his real name, Peruvian exile Adolfo Olaechea. According to Olaechea — who in absentia has been sentenced to life imprisonment in Peru — his country’s intelligence service participates, too. “They have used an account in Germany to send death threats in my name to try to create rifts.”

The high-velocity Net communication  fanned endless splits among PCP’s international supporters and still to be found on mail archive sites are the contributions and acrimonious exchange on Marxism-General list dating from the mid-1990s onwards.

In September 1992, the Peruvian government issued a list of 49 people (many labelled “terrorist criminals”) and 39 organizations network in the United States and Europe As reported Lyndon LaRouche. What it did not discuss in its accompanying commentary on alleged PCP militants, highlighting the overall importance of the Paris-based exiles, were the animosity between the various individuals and often competing organisations. A major analytical flaw was in the assertion that the PCP “actually leads the RIM” whereas the dominance of the RCP USA was shortly to be clearly demonstrated.

One group of supporters abroad the (PPM) Peru People’s Movement’s claim the status of the only generated organ for the party work abroad, with the authority to be able to centralize any kind of support, or materialize a support work for the People’s War in Peru. Its main focus initially being calls the defense of the life of Chairman Gonzalo and later the exhortations to “Impose Maoism” as expressed in Gonzalo Thought and the practice of the Peruvian revolution. PPM’s statements adhere to Gonzalo’s pre-arrest positions and acts as publicist for statements from the Central Committee of the PCP.

The claim to sole leadership was in a confused environment when activists thought “it is not known which one is the Communist Party of Peru, much less who their representatives are abroad”, there are so many “MPP’s”, there are so many “Support Committees”, there are so many “movements who claim to support the people’s war”.

Via its website and publication of the same name, Red Sun, http://www.redsun.org, the Peru People’s Movement criticises

“grouplets of renegades and degenerates that in some cases join together and others of them who want to reestablish their fiefs with merely personal interests… these individuals and grouplets created their different fiefs and called themselves defenders or representatives of the Revolution in Peru: “MPP USA, New Flag”, “MPP Germany”, “MPP Sweden”, “MPP France”, “MPP Switzerland”, the RCP’s “Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru”, etc. Even LAB [Luis Arce Borja] failed to make his own “MPP” and afterward he also wanted to replace the RIM with his” World-wide Mobilization Call.”                                    [Peru People’s Movement COMMUNIQUÉ August 2011]

Such division, PPM explained, “It is the plan of imperialism, the reaction and the new revisionism. And some infiltrators promote this, others want their fiefs like in the old days and others want to satisfy their low desires with trafficking.”

 

Part Two                      Part Three                  Part Four

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