Peru's Tarnished Path

From THE COMMUNIST, the political journal of the Progressive Labor Party, Number 6 (Fall 1992)


"How's business?"
"It's dead."

Since 1980 this has perfectly described all of Latin America's traditional export-based capitalist economics. It is why Latin American economists call this the "dead time."

Nowhere is it deader than in Peru. Between 1988 and 1991 total Peruvian economic output shrank 30%. By 1991 traditional exports had fallen to one third what they were worth in 1975. Workers' living conditions were cut in half. The political system shriveled with the economy, as the main parties, each representing a different faction of property, failed to figure out how to get the world market to accept its commodities. Even the traditional "Left" tried. Bankrupt ideas, bankrupt economy-they go hand in hand.

But it is not true that capitalism doesn't work at all in Peru. Only traditional capitalism is in crisis. The capitalists are able to make one part of their system work--the cocaine business. They just don't like to talk about it. But cocaine is Peru's largest industry. Roughly 15% of the entire Peruvian workforce is employed in the coca trade. [Andreas and Sharpe, COCAINE POLITICS IN THE ANDES, in CURRENT HISTORY mag., February 1992, pg. 77] Coca paste accounts for anywhere from 33% to 70% of the country's total exports (estimates of the value of this illegal export naturally vary.) [Phillip Smith, GRAPPLING WITH SHINING PATH, in NEW POLITICS, Dec. 1991, pg 95] Drug trade dollars finance Peru's imports. [US. Department of Commerce, PERU, US. Government Document 1234C, 1991, pg. 12] Drug trade dollars are soaked up by the Peruvian Central Bank and the rest of the government owned banking system to the tune of up to US $4.7 billion per year, and are used by the government to service the country's US $21 billion foreign debt (principally to pay USA banks) [Andreas and Sharpe, IBID., page 78].

Imagine what it must be like to be a worker forced to earn a living in Peru. If you are not a farm worker or a miner you have to live in Lima. That is where the capitalists have put the jobs. Nearly everything manufactured in Peru is produced in Lima. Lima is also the national capital and most of the white collar jobs are located there as well. So Lima is bursting at the seams. From a population of just under 230,000 in 1920, Lima mushroomed to 2.4 million by 1964. But that is nothing. In the next 25 years the business system forced another nearly 5.5 million working people to move to Lima to try to earn a living.

Today nearly EIGHT MILLION (almost all desperately poor workers) are jammed into Lima and more keep arriving every day in a search for paid work. They are forced to live in a series of shantytowns, each of several hundred thousand population, thrown up on garbage dumps, or on any bit of vacant land they can seize. There is no housing, no schools, no sewers, no public transport, no garbage collection, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and -- because Lima is in the middle of a desert --- no water. And, of course, despite the workers' needs and hopes, there are no jobs. Unemployment and underemployment for Peru as a whole is over 90%

Lima's poor cannot even afford charity. A typical network of soup kitchens in one shantytown (called Villa El Salvador) gets its food from US., Spanish, Canadian and Italian "aid" agencies. Despite the fact that it gets free food, the soup kitchen network scandalously and outrageously charges 30 cents a meal. This may seem cheap, but it isn't. The network's manager told the NEW YORK TIMES, "Eating in a soup kitchen is becoming a luxury. About 65 percent of Villa's population [which is 320,000] eat in soup kitchens. A lot of the rest can't afford it." [NEW YORK TIMES, April 15, 1992, pg. 12]

Still, all things considered, living in Lima is better than living anywhere else in Peru. That is why, outside of Lima, Peru is pretty sparsely populated. Eight million are crammed into Lima. Thirteen million are spread throughout the rest of this immense area. [Peru is pretty big. It is as big as all of Mexico from the Rio Grande to below Mexico City (an area in which 52 million people live). It is as big as Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Italy and Germany combined (where 213 million people live.) It is as big as all the eastern states of the USA from Maine to Florida put together, with West Virginia and Tennessee thrown in (where 96 million live). It is as big as the West Coast of the USA---Washington, Oregon and California, with half of Arizona added (an area where 35 million live.)

Living on the coast (where Spanish-speaking, mostly mestizo workers live, as do black and Chinese workers) is easier than living in the Andean highlands (where mostly Quechua-speaking Indian workers live.) The coastal metizo workers are paid seven times more than the highland Indian workers. The Indian workers can expect to be dead by the time they are 45; the mestizo workers live a little longer.

If you were forced to earn a living in Peru, you would be trapped in a racist capitalist system which over the years has been dominated by one social class---Spanish speaking, Europeancultured, white, Lima-based owners of huge country estates, descendants of the 16th-century Spanish conquerors. This class was dominated first by Spain's rulers, then by English bankers and finally by US. bankers (Italian and Japanese bankers playing a smaller part up to now.)

The Peruvian ruling class made its money by enslaving workers in a racist system and playing ball with the international bankers. If the bankers wanted to lend money to develop phosphate, rubber, cotton or copper exports, the Peruvian rulers obligingly borrowed the money and had their workers expand phosphate, rubber, cotton or copper production until the bottom fell out of these markets. (This had no connection with the needs of Peru's working people. For example, these huge farm-owners always imported food since it was more profitable for them to grow cotton for export than to grow food to eat. This raised the price of food sky high, but that didn't bother the land-owners---they could afford it. Only the farm workers starved.) When the bankers wanted to lend money to build unnecessary railroads, the Peruvian rulers borrowed the money and their workers built railroads to nowhere. (But no road or rail system adequate for the Peruvian working people's needs for transport and communications was ever built.) It was in this way, by borrowing for projects whose only benefit was the profits

they produced for the elite, that the government built up a US $21 billion foreign debt.

In view of the US. government, "It is a fact of life that...the country is on the edge of disaster." [US. Department of Commerce, IBID., pg. 11] Are they kidding? The Peruvian working people have long been buried in disaster. But it is the business class, not the working class, that is the US. government's concern. The "disaster" the US. government is worried about is communism. What the US. officials mean is that if the breakdown of traditional capitalism alone could produce a communist revolution, there would be one in Peru.

But as it happens, a communist revolution requires communists. That doesn't mean anyone who chooses to call himself or herself a communist. It means Marxist-Leninists organized in a party with correct ideas of what communism is and of how working people can transform their ideology and take steps to reorganize their society from capitalist to communist. Is there such a party, with such a line, in Peru? (Communists are not like Christian evangelists, who can promise anything they want in heaven. The evangelists will never be tested. No one will ever be able to prove they are wrong. But communists who win power have about twenty years to make good on their plans. If you do the wrong things, a new exploitative class structure emerges, and you are back to square one.)


Now, since May 17, 1980 there has been an armed revolt in Peru led by an organization calling itself the Communist Party of Peru, but known more popularly as the Sandero Luminoso, or SHINING PATH. [SANDERO LUMINOSO--Spanish for SHINING PATH---is the name the bourgeois press hung on the Communist Party of Peru (CPP) to distinguish it from other Peruvian organizations also using the name "Communist Party." The name's origin is from a CPP slogan: "Follow the SHINING PATH of Mariategui." This is to honor Jose Carlos Mariategui for being the founder of Peru's communist movement. He died in 1930.] SHINING PATH claims it now rules "liberated areas" in which 30% of the Peruvian people live. [Comments by representatives to the CPP leadership at a meeting with a PLP delegation in February, 1992] This achievement cost some 24,000 lives (most murdered in cold blood by the reactionary government army and its death squads.)

The SHINING PATH originated in 1959, when a group of young professors teaching at the university in the southern mountain city of Ayacucho joined the Peruvian Communist Party's regional committee. One of them, Abimael Guzman Reynoso (SHINING PATH's future "President Gonzalo"), a philosophy professor, and later Dean of the Faculty, became chairman of the Party regional committee. Guzman soon formed a secret group within the Party, which called itself the "Red Faction."

In 1964 the Peruvian party split, with a smaller group (including the leadership, which historically had close ties with the Communist Party of the US.) supporting the Soviet party, and the larger part supporting the Chinese. The "Red Faction" allied with the pro-China party.

Guzman spent most of 1965 in China studying the Chinese Communist Party's then current political line and military tactics, returning to Peru determined to carry out this strategy.

Within a few years the "Red Faction" had secured a base in the student federation and among the faculty in Ayacucho. It helped organize an Ayacucho municipal federation of community organizations and helped lead a massive regional movement against government plans to eliminate free education.

In 1970 (Guzman was in jail at the time) the pro-China party was convulsed by an inner-party struggle (in part over the question of whether or not a "revolutionary situation" existed in Peru), and as part of this struggle, Guzman and his "Red Faction" were expelled. When Guzman got out of jail later in 1970, the "Red Faction," which held that there was a "revolutionary situation," decided to transform itself into the "Communist Party of Peru." The membership (which was, and remains, secret) was made up mainly of professors and students at the Ayacucho university.

The new party spent its first five years working out a systematic ideological and political line (a line identical to what Guzman was taught in China in 1965), training its members in this line, and trying to develop a base of support. Guzman's plan was to hold a party congress in 1978, at which the call to start the "people's war" would be issued. But despite everything, a significant part of the party's members and leaders---apparently the majority---disagreed with the idea of armed struggle. A congress to initiate armed struggle could not be organized. So Guzman decided to start the armed struggle first, and then hold the congress (finally held ten years later.)

"This [situation] led us in 1978 to postpone the congress in order to carry it out when we would be amidst the people's war. Our reasoning was plain and simple: being in war, who could oppose the people's war? A congress and a party with arms in hand, with a vigorous people's war, how could there be anyone who would oppose the development of the people's war? They would not be able to generate any harm for us any more."

[Abimael Guzman, "President Gonzolo Breaks the Silence: An Interview From the Underground," EL DIARIO, Lima, July 24, 1988, reprinted by Red Banner Editorial House, pg. 39. This document was given to a PLP delegation in February, 1992 by representatives of the CPP leadership as an authoritative document of the CPP. The account of SHINING PATH's history given here is based on this interview.]

For the next two years the small party fought over the question of armed struggle. At a Central Committee meeting late in 1979 Guzman was able to expel from the party most of those who opposed starting the armed struggle. At a follow-up meeting in February, 1980 the remainder of the opposition was expelled. "We had to prune the Central Committee itself strongly." [Guzman, IBID., pg. 66]

That done, concrete plans were made for the first actions. On May 17, 1980, the day before the first national presidential elections in 17 years, a group of young people broke into the town hall in the mountain town of Chuschi, about thirty miles southwest of Ayacucho, took the ballots and voting lists to the town plaza, and publicly burned them. This was the first "armed action" by the first of the party's "armed detachment." Dynamite bombs were set off in the following weeks in other places. The "people's war" had begun.

In Peru in 1980 the civilian government did not trust the army. (A 12 year military dictatorship had just ended.) For its part, the army command was completely demoralized. As a result, the army could not be called out against the SHINING PATH. The SHINING PATH was left alone by the army from May, 1980 until the end of 1982. Militarily the SHINING PATH had only the local police forces to contend with. For more than two years SHINING PATH armed detachments were relatively free to spread north and south to villages throughout the southern mountains to destroy police outposts and chase away the police and the local political bosses, replace them with secret "People's Committees," capture weapons, and recruit.

"We generated a void in the countryside and we had to establish a New Power without having defeated larger armed forces because they had not taken part, and if they did, if they participated, it was because we had established the People's Power."

[Guzman, IBID., pg. 55]

By December, 1982 the national government's fear of the rebels

was finally greater than its fear of its own army, and the army was sent in.

The army's plan was simple: kill the SHINING PATH and reestablish the old structures of power by terrorizing the local populations, killing indiscriminately, expelling people from their villages (to make it impossible for SHINING PATH to organize) and forcing peasants into anti-SHINING PATH paramilitary groups (called, in Peru, "rondos.")

SHINING PATH's leadership met in early 1983 and decided to defend their "New Power" against the army's campaign in two ways. First, by reorganizing their armed detachments into a centrally-led "People's Guerrilla Army." Second, by organizationally grouping the secret village "People's Committees" in each area to form "base areas."

Revolutionaries need base areas to rest in, grow their food, train and recruit. They need places that are secure and stable. Otherwise these places are not base areas. A base area can be secure only if and when the local population supports the revolution and enters into it. It can be stable only if and when the government army is unable to enter and occupy the territory of the base area. This means the revolutionary armed forces are big enough, experienced enough and powerful enough to fight and win in positional warfare. (Hit-and-run sneak attacks are not good enough; it is the enemy who has to run away.) A base area therefore starts out insecure and unstable, and gets transformed over time, through political work and fighting. But the whole process is impossible unless the revolutionaries have already achieved a certain military strength.

Whether or not the SHINING PATH leadership felt it was militarily strong enough to take on the army (their forces had no actual combat experience), they were convinced they had no other choice. They had already "created the void," and filled it with their organization. They had created embryonic base areas. What choice but to try to defend them? And if they were defended successfully, then they had to be developed.

"A highly bloody and merciless genocide took place. We responded by fighting fiercely. The reaction, and concretely, the armed forces, believed that by 1984 they had already defeated us. I refer to [their] documents...where it even said we were not a danger anymore...But what was the result? That the People's Committees and the base areas multiplied themselves, and that led us. Later on, to develop the base areas."

[Guzman, IBID., pg. 57]

By the end of 1984 the SHINING PATH claimed to have a larger army, more "People's Committees," more base areas and a larger party. For its part, the army extended military rule over 40% of the country and continued a merciless reign of terror, torture and assassination against any suspects it could get its hands on.

In 1985 SHINING PATH took the next step with its "Plan to Develop Base Areas." The result [The following account was given by representatives of the CPP leadership to a PLP delegation, February, 1992] was a string of base areas running throughout the central highland, led by secret SHINING PATH controlled "Peoples' Committees." They ruled these base areas in the way they thought appropriate for the "united-front new bourgeois revolution." The "Peoples' Committees" maintained security, distributed land, administered market relations by setting production targets and prices, ran a school system, judged civil disputes, provided welfare for the elderly and recruited new members for the revolutionary forces. One policy the SHINING PATH is proud of is its effort to convince coca farmers to stop growing coca and grow food and fruit instead. They claim this policy is successful in their base areas. Other policies they are proud of include eliminating drug use and prostitution in their base areas, and not tolerating wife or child abuse, going so far as to shoot offenders. By 1990 SHINING PATH felt so strong that they revealed the membership of the Peoples' Committees. They also decided to set up a national government, based on the twenty-four base areas and led by "President Gonzalo," to rival the bourgeois state led by Fujimori. (But a SHINING PATH leader told a PLP delegation he did not know how this new "Republic of New Democracy actually functions.)

The army high command, who control an 80,000 man force, revealed in November, 1990 that it was prepared to crush the SHINING PATH, and they thought it would take a 20-year military dictatorship and killing 600,000 people to do it. [Nelson Manrique, "TIME OF FEAR," in NACLA Report on the Americas, Vol. 24, #4, pg. 38] More than half the country was already under military rule when, on April 5, 1992, President Alberto Fujimori took what looks like the next step in the army high command's plan and suspended the constitution and the judicial system in the rest of the country and dissolved the Congress altogether.

Just because the army plans to suppress the SHINING PATH doesn't mean it will be able to. But that is the army's concern. We have a different concern. What if SHINING PATH wins? If SHINING PATH wins, will it bring about a classless society---no exploitation, no oppression, no privilege, equality for all in satisfying everyone's needs--in short, communism? Nothing short of communism will solve the problems of Peru's working people. And communism is what SHINING PATH seems to be promising. This is what has won them a huge following from Peru's young people and from the poorest of Peru's poor, who know they have no future in capitalism, and who desperately want a complete change in society. They think that by supporting SHINING PATH they are fighting for a communist Peru. They admire SHINING PATH because it kills oppressors, crooks and thugs; because it seems to know what it is doing and seemingly can't be stopped; because its cadres are disciplined and moral. The poor look on it as their avenging angel. We decided to meet with the SHINING PATH to learn from them directly what they are all about.

We concluded, unfortunately, that SHINING PATH doesn't aim to, and isn't capable of, leading Peru to communism. After speaking to their representatives, and studying their material, it is clear to us that no one should count on SHINING PATH for this. Despite all the "communist" hoopla, their politics are really very reactionary.


SHINING PATH promotes something they call "Marxism-LeninismMaoism, principally Maoism, and Gonzalo Thought," as the latest word in revolutionary Marxist thinking. As they describe this

"new, third and higher stage of Marxism:"

"..Marxism leads us to Leninism and Leninism to Maoism. Of all these three, Maoism is principal. Moreover, Maoism leads us to Gonzalo Thought, which is the universal truth specific to the concrete reality of Peruvian society and specific to the concrete conditions of the class struggle today."

[Guzman, SPEECH: "On the Rectification Campaign Based on the Study of the Document NO TO ELECTIONS, YES TO PEOPLES' WAR," Central Committee, Communist Party of Peru, August 1991, pg. 4]

There is not much in this "Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism, Gonzalo Thought," and what little there is in it is false. As the above quote makes clear, it all hinges on whatever it is they call "Maoism." But a problem arises immediately when you try to learn what exactly is in "the new, third and higher stage of Marxism." After all, Mao himself never claimed to have developed a new stage of Marxism, so you can't refer to his writings for any insight. In fact, SHINING PATH tells you outright that Guzman, not Mao, invented "Maoism." "The principal contribution of Gonzalo Thought is to have developed the definition of Maoism as a new, third and higher state of Marxism." [Guzman, Speech, pg. 24] But what is it? The closest Guzman gets to "defining" "Maoism" is this:

"Revolutionary violence, class struggle, socialism, proletarian dictatorship and struggle against revisionism. Of these four, socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat are principal."

[Guzman, Speech, pg. 24]

But this combination of ideas originated with Marx many years before Mao was born. They were more fully developed by Lenin when Mao was still a child. Lenin added to these ideas the idea of the revolutionary, democratic-centralist working class party, and altogether this was the legacy of the Bolshevik revolution to all communists. Mao was one of the inheritors of this legacy, which he applied unchanged to Chinese conditions.

The only conclusion which Mao drew from Chinese revolutionary experience which he felt was a new, unique contribution to Marxism-Leninism which could be applied by revolutionaries in other countries besides China was what he called "peoples' war." He held that whenever the working class had to make war, whether to seize power in a revolutionary civil war of class against class, or in a war of national defense against imperialist aggression, that war should be fought in a protracted way, based on communist political organizing, and emphasizing guerrilla warfare to annihilate the enemy army. Important as this is, and true as it may be, it is not an ideology. Mao never claimed it was anything more than a contribution to Marxism-Leninism in the political and military fields.

There was one other area where Mao began to develop a distinctive body of ideas, but he didn't get too far before he died. These ideas were conclusions Mao drew from the experience of all the socialist countries, and not only of China. Mao concluded that in socialism there is a constant movement to restore private capitalism. This movement has a social base in socialist society's new privileged elite groups, such as managers, professionals, intellectuals, artists and bureaucrats, rather than in the old dispossessed classes. The movement's leadership was within the leadership of the ruling communist party itself. So Mao felt the working people should rise up, overthrow the party leadership and institute new social policies which restricted privilege, with the long term goal of eliminating it. The workers should be prepared to do this over and over again, as needed. This process he called "Cultural Revolution." But he had no clear idea how to do these things successfully, or how to ensure that privileged groups don't arise to begin with, and he opposed those within the Cultural Revolution---the Left---who did have such a program.

In developing his ideas, both about "peoples' war" and about the need for "cultural revolution," Mao relied on the characteristic method of Marxist-Leninist reasoning, called the principle of contradiction. Mao developed a slogan to help people use this method: "One divides into two." Other phrases with which he, and other Cultural Revolutionaries, expressed the same idea, were: "Analysis is primary, synthesis is secondary," "Struggle is constant, unity is temporary."

During the Cultural Revolution this slogan, "One into two," became an important political issue. Mao's opponents--Liu, Deng and the other "capitalist roaders"---were accused by Mao of betraying Marxism-Leninism by misstating the principle of contradiction. They were charged with putting unity first and class struggle second---or "two into one." For this they had to be struggled against and overthrown.

Now, bearing all this in mind, when we return to considering SHINING PATH's "Maoism" we find a very curious thing. They oppose Mao's insistence on the primacy of the idea of "One into two." Instead they support the capitalist roaders' formulation of "Two into one." "President Gonzalo" said this very clearly:

"Pay attention to analysis and synthesis. These are two aspects of a contradiction and synthesis is the principal one...Synthesis is the decisive aspect, the main aspect...from the standpoint of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism..synthesis is the principal aspect."

[Guzman, SPEECH, pg. 3]

While SHINING PATH states that the "Cultural Revolution is the greatest achievement of Chairman Mao," they oppose Mao's whole idea for the Cultural Revolution. Mao felt there was a ruling socialist elite class, led and protected by the Communist Party leadership, which was implementing policies and laws which were capitalist. They had to be thrown from power, and society had to be reorganized to eliminate privilege.

SHINING PATH opposes this. They don't see any privileged social class or even any social process. They oppose Mao's conclusion that capitalism develops out of socialism. As they see it,

"The China with Deng from 1976 to the present usurped the dictatorship of the proletariat, restored capitalism and destroyed socialism." [Guzman, SPEECH, pg. 6]

From this viewpoint there was no point to the Cultural Revolution, which began in 1966--ten years before the "revisionist conspiracy destroyed socialism."

There is not much one can say about a "Maoism" which crucifies Mao, and then pretends to worship him. Instead (and more fruitfully) we examine the three most important elements of SHINING PATH's politics. They are all reactionary.

The imperialists are cocky and arrogant these days, and it would be nice if some revolutionary communists were already strong enough to really hit them in the head with a two-by-four. But it won't be the SHINING PATH.


First--- the most reactionary thing---is what they aim for. They are trying to reform capitalism. They are not trying for communism. They talk a lot about communism, but the talk is all deception. Communism for them is a goal for the distant, unknown future, a goal they don't believe the Peruvian working people can reach through their own efforts and, moreover, a goal they themselves have no idea how to reach. As Guzman put it:

" a Communist Party we have one goal: communism...This is our final goal..But until everybody on earth will arrive there, nobody enters communism..Either everybody or nobody will enter communism...[So] we believe the road to communism is a long one."

[Guzman, INTERVIEW, pg. 110]

Everybody at once? [This reminds us of the fight in the Bolshevik party in the mid-1920s over whether they could build socialism in the Soviet Union even though the socialist revolution in the main European industrial countries had failed. The right-wing, then led by Trotsky, argued that the Bolsheviks could not go forward alone to socialism, and they shouldn't try. But even Trotsky didn't demand that "everybody on earth" be ready to spring into socialism. He would have been content with Germany. Is Presidente Gonzolo more right-wing than Trotsky?] How in the world could this ever happen? It seems childish, but really it is just reactionary politics.

SHINING PATH apparently has decided that Marxism-Leninism is wrong in its conclusion that capitalist societies develop unevenly, some faster, others slower. It is this uneven development that produces a world capitalism that can be imagined as a chain with some strong links and some weak links. It is in the "weak links" that proletarian revolution has its best chances of succeeding. That was Lenin's idea. It is the basis of the communist movement. It was the basis for Mao's work. Guzman obviously disagrees with Lenin and world communism, and instead agrees with the old right-wing social democrats, from whom Lenin split to form the communist movement in the first place.

SHINING PATH obviously believes the oppressed can't free themselves from oppression. They are not bashful about calling their revolution a "BOURGEOIS REVOLUTION [our emphasis] of a new type, which only the proletariat can lead...[and which] is the only way to transform the world." [Central Committee, Communist Party of Peru, "On Marxism-Leninism-Maoism," in FUNDAMENTAL DOCUMENTS, Red Banner Editorial House, 1988, pg. 12. This document also was given to a PLP delegation in February, 1992 by representatives of the CPP leadership as an authoritative document of the CPP.] This is what they mean by "New Democracy." Where they have political power, and the ability to put their plans into practice, they do no more than supervise capitalism to smooth out its roughest edges.

Mariategui--whose heritage SHINING PATH claims to be redeeming-must be turning over in his grave at this. He completely disagreed with any kind of bourgeois revolution, either the "old type" or the "new type."

When people claiming to be communists get involved with "new type" or "new democratic" bourgeois revolutions it is because they are trying to win over peasants, a group they believe are really capitalist. The problem for these would-be communists is, what should you do with the land owned by the feudal landlords? The "new style" bourgeois revolution breaks up the huge latifundia into small farms and distributes them to the peasants, who become small landowners. This "fulfills" the peasants' presumed capitalist dreams. SHINING PATH follows this policy in the areas they control. But, of course, this is exactly what happened in the "old style" bourgeois revolutions the capitalist led! SHINING PATH deludes itself into thinking it is doing something new because it concerns itself with the problem "Who should get what?" Should the poor peasants get everything? Should the middle peasants get anything? What about the rich peasants? How do you distinguish between one group and another? But in the end, what's the difference? The end result will be that some group will become property owners, (just as in Poland, for example, where the communists followed the same policy. That was a great success!) What the capitalists did, and what SHINING PATH is doing, is the same. Capitalism is being reproduced and expanded.

SHINING PATH's policy is completely opposed to what Peru's peasants need or want. Marategui himself (and not PL) was the first to point this out. As far back as 1928 he wrote:

"Everyone must know that according to individualist ideology, the liberal solution to this problem [the problem of how to abolish the great feudal farms] would be the breaking up of the great feudal farms to create small property...[This is] orthodox...capitalist and bourgeois..."

"I believe that the moment for attempting the liberal, individualist method in Peru has already passed. Aside from reasons of doctrine, I consider that our agrarian problem has a special character due to an indisputable and concrete factor: the survival of the Indian "community" and of elements of practical communism in indigenous agriculture and life."

[Jose Carlos Mariategui, "The Problem of Land," in SEVEN INTERPRETIVE ESSAYS ON PERUVIAN REALITY, University of Texas Press, 1990, pg. 33]

This is the key to Mariategui's unique contribution to communist theory, his actual "SHINING PATH." He felt Peru needed a communist revolution as the only way to end the oppression of the Indian and the worker. He felt Peru was ready for communism because there already existed a communist structure on which to build a communist Peru.

This structure is the traditional Indian AYLLU ("community" with its collective ownership of land and cooperative labor. The ayllu existed a thousand years before the Inca, who founded their empire only in 1400 AD. Inca civilization used the ayllu as its social basis. (For this reason Mariategui characterized the Inca period as "Inca communism," even though the Inca ruling elite forced the ayllus to support their parasitic aristocratic class system.)

"If the historical evidence of Inca communism is not sufficiently convincing, the `community'---the specific organ of that communism--should dispel any doubt...Modern communism is different from Inca communism...The two communisms are products of different human experiences. They belong to different historical epochs. They were evolved by dissimilar civilizations. The Inca civilization was agrarian; the civilization of industrial...It is therefore absurd to compare the forms and institutions of the two communisms. All that can be compared is their essential and material likeness, within the essential and material difference of time and space."

[Mariategui, IBID., pg. 74]

The ayllu continued a vibrant existence in Mariategui's time (he argued in 1928 that "the Indian `community' is still a living organism and .... shows unmistakable potentialities for evolution and development." [Mariategue, IBID., pg. 56] The ayllu is alive at this very moment.

"The Indian...has not become an individualist. And this is not because he resists progress, as is claimed by his detractors. Rather, it is because individualism under a feudal system does not find the necessary conditions to gain strength and develop. On the other hand, communism has continued to be the Indian's only defense. Individualism cannot flourish or even exist effectively outside a system of free competition. And the Indian has never felt less free than when he has felt along..."

[Mariategui, IBID., pg. 57]

"In Peru, communal property does not represent a primitive economy that has been gradually replaced by a progressive economy founded on individual property... The latifundium compares unfavorably with the `community' as an enterprise for agricultural production [in terms of crop yield]..." [Mariategui, IBID., pg. 58-60]

"The `community' a system of production that keeps alive in the Indian the moral incentives that stimulate him to do his best a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere. [A Peruvian sociologist] very correctly observes that "the vigor, industry and enthusiasm with which the communal farmer [works], joking with his companion..present a profound and decisive contrast to the indolence, indifference, apathy and apparent fatigue with which the [workers on a feudal farm] do the same or similar work."

[Mariategui, IBID., pg. 61]

During the 1960s, when the leaders of what became the SHINING PATH drew up their capitalist reform program for the future (they had a written draft ready by 1968 and they haven't strayed far from it since) they ignored 4,500 active ayllus whose members communally worked 11% of Peru's farmland. Apart from the communal farmers, 60% of the rural families in Peru were landless farmworkers. [InterAmerican Committee on Agricultural Development, in Hector Bejar, PERU, 1965, Monthly Review Press, 1970, pg. 13839, 14142] The general picture has not changed to this day. By what crazy logic are Peruvian communal farmers and rural workers a capitalist-class-waiting-to-be-born?

All of this shows not only the reactionary nature of SHINING PATH's "new bourgeois" of "new democratic" revolution, but also that SHINING PATH opposes Mariategui's own shining path.


There is no way the CPP can achieve communism with their present reactionary politics. As SHINING PATH explains it, [Comments by representatives of CPP leadership to PLP delegation, February, 1992] today they are leading a united front people's war of the peasants, the petty bourgeoisie (the self employed and the professionals) and themselves (representing the working class.) The peasants are the base, the working class leads. This united front is fighting for the "new style bourgeois revolution." Their aim is to replace the old bourgeois state with the new "frontstate," called the "Republic of New Democracy." That is happening now. The "front-state" already exists (based on 24 base areas the CPP controls) and is now assuming nationwide responsibilities. The minute it controls the whole national territory, the revolution automatically will turn "socialist," and all productive capacity will be nationalized. A "party-state" will replace the "frontstate." The "party-state" will build socialism and lead cultural revolutions to prevent capitalist roaders from creeping into power. Meanwhile, it will wait for the "international proletariat and the oppressed nations" to carry out their own people's wars so everyone can enter communism.

The CPP actually embodies many elements of the most Left-wing version of the old international communist movement's fatally flawed strategy of "revolution for socialism." That strategy had a lot of truth and latent strength buried in it. Among those truths were: that revolutionary violence to win state power is the only way working people can liberate themselves from oppression, and the most generalized expression of this is people's war; a revolution needs a revolutionary party; and the party must rely on base building. The CPP has obviously applied these correct elements of the old strategy to the horrible conditions Peruvian capitalism has created. This is the reason for SHINING PATH's current success, a success which baffles and amazes anti-communist political analysts.

In the old strategy these truths serviced an overall false idea-somehow socialism leads to communism, so to get to communism you should fight for socialism. Of course, this has already been tried many times. It never worked, and for good reason. After all, what is socialism? Socialism is nothing more than a form of state capitalism. Lenin pointed out that socialism's only purpose is to develop economic production within capitalist forms, but under the "supervision" of a party claiming to be devoted to "ultimately" bringing about communism.

But results showed that socialism doesn't "grow" into communism any more than any other form of capitalism does. Who controlled the party and dominated society in socialism? It was the educated cadres, the managers and administrators, the intellectuals. There was a cult of "expertise." The highest goal for a worker or farmer---who remained trapped having to sell their ability to work in return for a wage--was to become an engineer, or scientist or other expert. Then he or she could leave the working class. Expertise naturally brought rewards in the form of higher wages and effective ownership of property; otherwise why bother to be an expert? This privileged group, centralized in the party, fought for socialism against the communist needs and desires of those who actually worked on the land and in the factories.

Socialism, like all forms of capitalism, has to be overthrown in a revolutionary struggle for communism. So far the only attempt to do this was by workers and students in the so called "Cultural Revolution" in China during the last part of the 1960s. That revolution was led by a coalition of Left and Right elements. Within the revolutionary coalition there was intense, violent struggle. The Left was overthrown by the Right. Then the Right was defeated by the socialist state capitalists in a bloody struggle for power. The name "Cultural Revolution" hardly describes what was at stake or what was happening. It was a communist revolution against socialism. Its necessity proves that for working people, whose needs can only be satisfied by communism, socialism is a wrong path.

Although SHINING PATH says "cultural revolutions" will be needed in the future, they actually have no understanding of the Cultural Revolution. They don't agree with the communist critique of socialism that was the basis for the Cultural Revolution, the critique which shows that socialism actually strengthens and reproduces capitalism. They don't understand the political economy of socialism. They don't see the facts because they look at socialism in the light of Marxist concepts that prevailed BEFORE there was a Marxist critique of socialism. In their view the Cultural Revolution was needed because traitors snuck into the leadership and "diverted" socialism to a capitalist path through a coup. It was all a conspiracy. If you ask them how a cultural revolution would work in Peru, they confess they have no idea, since it is inconceivable to them that traitors will succeed in infiltrating their leadership.

To make sure this won't happened they promote a cult of their leader, "President Gonzalo." Follow him and you won't go wrong. (Their slogan is "Long Live President Gonzalo, Guarantor of Victory!") They learned this from Chinese socialism. Socialism requires this "cult of personality," but not, as bourgeois sociologists explain it, because of any desire to create "secular religion." Socialism requires it because the party establishes a hierarchical society and uses its control of the means of production to plan production on the basis of profitability. It can not be supervised by the masses of working people. (This supervision we call the "mass line"). As a result, the party which is supposed to be the party of the working class instead appears as its boss. (Stalin was actually called "The Boss.") The working class remains alienated from the means of production and from political power. THEREFORE TO MAINTAIN ITS LINK TO THE WORKING CLASS, THE PARTY REQUIRES A PARTY INSTITUTION APPEALING DIRECTLY TO THE WORKING CLASS BEHIND THE BACK OF THE PARTY! This institution is the cult of the party leader. This was the reason for the Stalin cult in the Soviet Union and the Mao cult in China.

But in communism, because an egalitarian society is being built, not a hierarchical one, the working class exercises supervision over the party, and production is planned to satisfy workers' needs. To bring about these conditions requires a hard class struggle to help people transform their ideology and consciousness. The people must also forge new ways of relating to each other based on a communist spirit of class solidarity. (Production of what people actually need and want expands as a by-product of the new social relations of conscious class solidarity. Shoddy, rotten goods aren't tolerated because the aim isn't to increase production as an end in itself.) The implicit authoritarianism behind a cult of the party leader would only get in the way of the revolutionary transformation of social relations required by this communist organization of society.

The cult of "President Gonzalo" already plays the same reactionary role (replacing the mass line) for the SHINING PATH as it did in Soviet and Chinese socialism. A US. sociologist who has studied women in the SHINING PATH, confirms this, reporting:

"SHINING PATH cadre see the centralization of political authority in `Presidente Gonzalo' as a guarantee that grassroots power will not be subverted...Paradoxically, the existence of hierarchy in the party is regarded as an assurance that selfishness or egotism on the part of local cadre will not prevail over the common good."

[Carol Andreas, "Women At War," in NACLA REPORT ON THE AMERICAS, Vol. 24, #4, pg. 27]


The third significant reactionary element in SHINING PATH's politics is its attitude to racism.

"Racism" is a word that describes two separate parts of material reality. (1) Racism is a set of social relations, ranging from discrimination to mass murder, all based ultimately on one relation: the super-exploitation of a socially distinct group. (2) Racism also is a set of ideas, all of which ultimately boil down to the notion that all groups, other than the racist's own group, are sub-human.

We know that today racism is capitalism's main ideological weapon and nowhere is this more true than in Peru. But what is often

overlooked is that racist social relations have always been one of capitalism's main structural elements. (The Social Democrats have never understood this.) After all, why should a boss pay a worker what that worker wants if he can force another worker to do the same job for less? (This is the highest point of capitalist efficiency.) So one group of workers is singled out to be super-exploited because it is easily identifiable by color or being foreign. However little more workers get, the superexploited workers get less. The justification for this is that super-exploited workers "deserve" to get less because "they wouldn't know what to do with more," or some variation on the REAL theme---THE SUPER-EXPLOITED ARE REALLY SUBHUMAN.

The super-exploitation of a socially distinct group of workers is like a rope tied to the rest of the workers' legs. The capitalists jerk the rope to pull the other workers down to the level to which they have forced the super-exploited. The general level of capitalist profitability is set by this maneuver. In addition, (taking only the USA as an example), every year tens of billions of dollars of EXTRA profits, profits above "normal," are squeezed out of US. minority workers through racist superexploitation.

When the mass of workers accept the racist idea preached to them constantly by the ruling class that super-exploited workers deserve to be abused by racist social relations because they are "subhuman" (or, when minority workers respond with racism's mirror image, nationalism, which asserts that the minority is superior to the majority) then they are all lost. Even penny-ante pay raises become almost impossible to win. Definitely such workers cannot realize themselves as a conscious working class able to act in their class interest. They are condemned to remain mere labor power, merely an atomized component of capital, at the beck and call of capital.

Do you want to unite isolated workers into a WORKING CLASS, and then go forward to win the liberation of the working class from exploitation? Well, that obviously requires that anti-racist struggle, both to change social relations and to change ideas, be in the forefront of your activities. You cannot wipe out capitalism anywhere in the world without making anti-racist struggle primary. Karl Marx long ago made this point. Especially in Peru is capitalism composed of racist exploitation combined with racist ideas.

But this isn't so obvious to the SHINING PATH. In fact, the SHINING PATH doesn't agree with this. They think that antiracist struggles are wrong. In their view anti-racist struggle would only call attention to differences within the working class and hold back mobilizing working class unity for the revolution. [The SHINING PATH leader who explained this to a group of PLPers responded to their shock at what he was saying by assuring them that naturally SHINING PATH "opposes prejudice."]

People who want to look for excuses for SHINING PATH react to this by saying. "Well, this is a group which thinks the class struggle is primary, so they take a tactical hands-off position on racism. It's not as good a position as it could be, but at least it's not racist."

But it is racist. There is no way to be neutral about racism. This is the way liberal capitalists are racist. This is the way people who don't want to understand anything about the objective structure and laws of capitalism, and who despise dialectical reasoning, are racist.

Marxism holds that insofar as they are expressed, ideas are material things. This may be hard to understand, but a deduction from this is very simple and clear: one way an idea takes material form is as the basis for social action. Then it exists in the material world as the activity of social classes, as a way in which one class relates to another. As an example, one way in which racist ideas are real material things is as they are embodied as a set of activities, founded on racist superexploitation, and ranging from discrimination to mass murder.

Now, if these racist social activities are constantly going on (as they are in this world), and if SHINING PATH chooses to ignore them (as it does), does that make them disappear? Only psychotics imagine the real world disappears when they choose to ignore it.

Marxism teaches that life is constant activity. Social life is constant class struggle. "Struggle is constant." Everything we do has its effect. Everything we fail to do has its effect. To not do something is another way of doing that thing's opposite. We are swamped in a racist high tide. To go with the flow is to go with racism. To oppose racism we need to swim actively against the current. That is why SHINING PATH's hands-off attitude to racism appears to be neutral, but can only take material form as the opposite of neutral---as partisan, as pro-racist.

There is a good example from the Second World War of how central anti-racism is to the struggle against capitalism. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 to re-establish capitalism, anti-Jewish racism (anti-Semitism) was the main way they tried to win over the Soviet citizens they were trying to conquer--mainly Russians and Ukrainians, who, before the Communist revolution, had been well trained in anti-Semitism. The Stalin leadership didn't try to dodge the issue. They rejected the SHINING PATH line that they should be "neutral" on racism, or that would hold back mobilizing support for the Soviet state. Instead, the communists took a forthright anti-racist position. Ilya Ehrenburg, then the leading Soviet writer, put it this way: "You are either an anti-Nazi or an anti-Semite." What was the result? Support for the Soviet state was never higher than during World War II, although by SHINING PATH logic, that should not have happened.

On the other hand, there are two instructive examples of how SHINING PATH "neutralism" becomes open racism.

The March, 1991 issue of the SHINING PATH monthly newspaper refers on page 4 to Peruvian President Fujimori (whose parents were Japanese) as "the slanty-eyed ruler." The actual colloquial meaning of the phrase in Peru is much more vicious. It is a brutal racial insult typical of the Klan, of France's racist politician Le Pen, of Hitler and Goebbels. It is unimaginable that such a phrase could be uttered by a communist, much less be printed in a communist newspaper.

The second example has to do with the USA group that SHINING PATH refers to as its close ally, a group which also promotes "Marxism-Leninism-Maoism-Gonzalo Thought." This is a small group which calls itself the "Revolutionary Communist Party", and which has been around since the early 1970s. Its line on racism has always been the same SHINING PATH line we have been discussing. In 1974-76 fascist forces in Boston tried to organize a mass racist movement, using opposition to school integration as their organizing device. At first they were very successful, and they were looking forward to leading a nationwide anti-black racist mass movement. PLP determined to try to stop this dangerous fascist threat by killing it in its cradle. PLP sent cadres to Boston, organized volunteers, and worked with working people in Boston to organize against the Boston fascists' movement. PLP succeeded, which was important. Conditions in the USA would have been even worse if there had been a mass racist movement active. But guess who joined the fascist effort and participated in the fascist demonstrations? Right---the "Revolutionary Communist Party." What was their excuse? The SHINING PATH line, expressed this way: "Busing black students to predominantly white schools to integrate the schools is a liberal plot to divide the working class, and stir up whites against blacks."

Marxism hold that the main way humans are different from each other is through class division. The working class has interests and needs which are antagonistic to the capitalists. The working class outlook on life is in basic conflict with the capitalist outlook on life. The idea that "anti-racist struggles would only call attention to differences within the working class and hold back mobilizing working class unity for the revolution" actually amounts to justifying the opposing notion: that humans are unbridgably divided by skin color and culture, and that class divisions in society are a secondary division. (By this logic Peruvian bosses are not as bad--for Peruvian workers---as US. bosses, whereas Peruvian bosses are worse--for US. workers--than US. bosses.)

But this is completely senseless. Are differences in skin color or in culture the product of different species of humans? Are there different species of humans? Are humans like cats and dogs, lions and lambs--not to be stirred up? If this is the working class' true nature, then the working class would be able to achieve its liberation in communism only if it remained ignorant of its true nature!

Modern science has given the lie to what is implied by the SHINING PATH position. Modern science has conclusively shown that all people alive today are descended from common ancestors who arose about 200,000 years ago in Africa, and that class division in society is the primary way humans are "different" from each other. SHINING PATH is justifying precisely what the Nazis said in a crude way and what today's sociobiologists promote in a sophisticated "scientific" way. A "communist" movement that doesn't combat this kind of thinking tooth and nail isn't worth spit.

SHINING PATH's idea also attacks the great history of Peruvian people's resistance. The history of the Peruvian people form the Spanish conquest in 1533 up to the present is one of horrible racist oppression and heroic resistance. The largest of hundreds of revolts was put down at a cost of 200,000 Indian lives. In no country has racist oppression been more ferocious than in Peru.

When Pizarro, the Spanish representative of burgeoning European capitalism, "discovered" Peru in 1526 there were some 20 million Peruvians living in an agrarian communist society in the continent's most developed and powerful civilization. By 1570, as a result of the Spaniards' holocaust (which combined slaughter, smallpox, slavery and starvation) the population had been reduced to 1.3 million. Continued oppression killed another half, so that only 600,000 remained alive in 1630. [Ronald Wright, STOLEN CONTINENTS, NY, 1992, pg. 185] The Inca civilization was destroyed, although the basis of Indian society---the ayllu---was not. (The population didn't recover to pre-Conquest levels until the 1980s.)

The Spanish capitalist came to Peru to loot and enslave. In 1532 alone they melted down enough Incan art objects to ship back to Spain seven tons of silver--a value greater than any European king had then at his disposal. In 1534 they shipped back another four tons of gold. [Wright, IBID., pg. 82] Adventurers, gold and silver prospectors, priests and lawyers came to Peru, not as settlers. They super-imposed a feudal system of huge farms on the ayllus, turning the free Indian farmers into serfs, bound to the soil, absolutely dominated and controlled by the landlord and forced to work for him for free. This feudal landlord ruling class controlled Peru until the 1970s.

But the capitalist's' policy was contradictory and self-defeating. From the capitalist point of view, there were both too many Indians and too few Indians. There were too many Indians because the ruling class was too small to control them. To solve this problem the rulers took two tacks. First, they needed a buffer population to stand between the mass of exploited and oppressed Indian labor and themselves. They created a native class of ruling-class hangers on: judges, policemen, and other petty power-holders to help police and administer the feudal order. And they imported slaves from Africa. (By 1600 there were already 30,000 African slaves in Lima, the colonial capital.) The second tack had three aspects: exterminate the Indians; breed the "inferior race" out of existence, [From this arose the MESTIZOS, people of mixed Indian caucasian parentage who today number more than 40% of the population. Though most mestizos are working people, there is an upper-class small town mestizo elite. This is the group that traditionally oppressed the Indian peasants, and spread the "mestizo ideology" that "Indians are inferior."] assimilate them (ban Quechua, their language, force them to learn Spanish, ban their culture, etc.). Still, no matter how hard the Spanish rulers tried (and they tried very hard indeed), they couldn't get rid of the Indians and Indian culture.

But the problem of controlling too many Indians was overwhelmed by a more serious problem: the ruling class found it actually didn't have enough Indians. The rulers needed more labor power to exploit the natural wealth they had conquered. They tried importing slaves from Africa, but that didn't work because they couldn't import enough. In time they couldn't import any at all. When they ran out of black slaves they imported contract labor from China. It was in this way, through agony, murder, slavery and racism, that the capitalists created their Peruvian labor force.

From colonial times until today labor was always a shameful and oppressive condition forced upon mainly nonwhite workers. The white ruling class always lived a life of luxurious indolence in Lima. How well they benefited from racist exploitation is easy to see. In the mid-1960s (a time when everybody agrees life was better in Peru than it is now) the 24,000 individuals who basically made up the white Lima ruling class each had an average annual income equivalent to US $62,500. The rest of the population combined had an average annual income equivalent to US $157. Indian farmworkers had an average annual income of $10. Moreover, in 1965 the mostly mestizo workers living on the coast were paid seven times more than the mostly Indian workers living in the mountains were paid. [Peruvian National Planning Institute, in Bejar, IBID., pg. 27]

RACISM, THEREFORE, HAS BEEN THE IDEOLOGICAL, POLITICAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL PIVOT OF PERUVAIAN CAPITALISM. The Peruvian working people are exploited and oppressed by Peruvian capitalism, which is a racist exploitative system. Peru is a hothouse of ruling-class-promoted racism; anti-Indian, antiblack, anti-mestizo, coastal groups against highland groups against forest groups. Racism is deep in the Peruvian social consciousness. No one, except the SHINING PATH, denies this. Racism runs through every social issue of the 1st 400 years up to this very moment. You can't get rid of the exploitation without at the same time getting rid of racism, just as you c