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Friday, June 07, 2013

İbrahim Kaypakkaya —Com Gonzalo—Who is the greatest Marxist of our time?

Not long ago, a thread was posted at the Kasama Project called “Com Gonzalo-the greatest Marxist of our time?” Since the unrest in Turkey recently, A few people have mention the revolutionary İBRAHİM KAYPAKKAYA. In Turkey Kaypakkaya is a well known martyr who is much respected among Marxists and Maoists in that country. Someone on the Kasama Project posted a link to a biography of him.
According to that biography;
“His life was very short but he was able to create a tradition for real communists held in the torture chamber "You give your life but not a secret" and even until today this tradition continues.
That means that he never really died: his spirit still lives on because the struggle continues. This struggle is a part of proletarian internationalism.”
That brings up the question of whom if any of these people are the greatest Marxist of our time.  Both men have led impressive lives and both have contributed to revolution in their parts of the world. However, when does a revolutionary reach the status of being universally beyond the average?
I know that Marxists of any kind don’t like their beliefs to be compared to religion. But sometimes the similarities are there. A few years ago I heard this joke about a Catholic Priest who asked a grade school student if he would like be a saint.
“No,” the student answered. “I would have to be dead.”
As with being a saint, to be a truly universally admired and studied Marxist revolutionary, it is much easier to be dead. The reason for this is obvious. A living person can change their mind and turn on those who have bestowed their honorable place in history. Imagine having to take down a lot of stain glass windows and statues from churches all over Europe, if St. Francis of Assisi was anointed a saint, then a week later denounced the church as a farce and declared god as nothing more than a myth.
Similarly, to bestow the title of “greatest Marxist of our time” on a living person could be very embarrassing if the person turned on the entire left and denounced Marxism as a hoax. The same problems would arise.
The last century saw the rise and fall of some major revolutionary leaders and theoreticians.

There are the famous Marxist theoreticians who are read and respected by Marxists the world over, including Jean-Paul Sartre, Antonio Gramsci, Rosa Luxemburg, and José Carlos Mariátegui. There are examples of Marxists who are given hero status, such as Kim Il Sung, but he is studied and deified more in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea than in any other part of the world.
Then there are the really big names, the people who’s pictures and names appear on banners, such as Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, V.I. Lenin, Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky. The last two names prove that no matter how much of a following an important Marxist icon has, there are always competing ideologies and that means that these people are some person’s heroes and others are someone else’s monsters. No matter how popular a Marxist theoretician gets, there are always enemies trying to destroy their reputation, whether they are other factions of the left or they are attacked by members of the right who want to discredit any form of socialist theory. 
 Since the 1980s, there have been very few new Marxists theoreticians who have risen past that point of being icons. We can’t really count Hugo Chávez since he never confirmed that he was a Marxist and he didn’t write a lot of books of theory.

Comrade Gonzalo (Abimael Guzmán) is a logical choice for Latin America since he led the most successful guerrilla movements and rebellion in that part of the world since 1980. Harsh Thakor, who wrote the article, did a lot of work to explain what Gonzalo did to organize people and the theories he developed as he put together the Communist Party of Peru’s political and paramilitary movement. From 1980 to 1992, the year of Gonzalo’s capture, the PCP was running a very successful civil war. But since that time, the Peruvian government has made public claims that the entire leadership of the PCP has endorsed peace talks to end the “people’s war.” there has been a dispute between supporters of the movement, mostly from the Peru People’s Movement, (there web site is presently off line) that claim the peace accords are a hoax and that the PCP is still dedicated to continuing the “people’s war.” Statements made by Gonzalo and his comrades indicate that they are still dedicated to Maoism.
 So Gonzalo has not turned on his movement. However, he may actually see peace accords as a tactical maneuver that would allow him to rebuild his movement, which has clearly suffered setbacks since his capture 20 years ago.

So my personal conclusion is that Gonzalo has an impressive career and he has proven himself to be a serious political theoretician. However, since he and his leadership are in prison, we can’t seriously know what they really plan to do. The government can easily censor or manipulate what these people are saying publically. So we don’t know what is really going on with them inside the prisons of Peru.

It’s like earning saint-hood. His life story is not finished and until it is, we will have a hard time deciding if he really deserves to be considered the “greatest Marxist of our time.” I do admire Gonzalo for his accomplishments and I agree with those who argue that guerrilla movements in other parts of the world don’t really need the endorsement of moderate leftists or liberals to tell them what rules of engagement they should use (how much violence).

As for him being the greatest—let’s wait until his story is complete. It is unfortunate that saints and Icons work out better when they are dead.
-សតិវ អតុ
İbrahim Kaypakkaya


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SJ Otto said...

To update this piece, the Peru People's Movement has a web site;
The other factions are also represented with their own web sites.