By Harsh Thakor
On May 17th we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the launching of the peoples War in
Since the 1949 Chinese revolution no movement came so close to toppling the state or took intensity or creativity in peoples war to such a height. After the fall of the last citadel of Socialism with the Dengist regime triumphant in
Chairman Gonzalo gave a new meaning or definition to Mao Tse Tung thought by turning it into 'Maoism.' He founded the concepts that Maoist path of protracted people’s war was Universal and that the Maoist party was a militarised one. Gonzalo advocated that it was Maoism that was principal and Chairman Mao had discovered the international military line of the proletariat. No leader in the world after 1976 ignited the spark of Maoism with the depth of Chairman Gonzalo. What distinguished the 'Shining Path' movement as it was known was it's differentiation of the party with the guerrilla army unlike the focoist Che Guevarist theory applied in
What was remarkable was the manner the Peoples Guerrilla army encircled the urban areas, virtually besieging the administration. It brilliantly combined self -defence and aggression to confront the enemy at its strongest point.
It had strong similarities to the War of resistance led by Chairman Mao in
Touches of genius were revealed in the methods they deployed to penetrate the slum areas of
Applying dialectical foresight it meticuluosly penetrated into the urban regions to develop a united front with the intellectuals like professors, journalists ,doctors etc. and made inroads in the slums of the shanty towns. With immense creativity it applied Maoism where a bourgeois democratic parliamentary system was firmly entrenched and a revisionist left.
With remarkable manouverabilty it shimmered the spark of revolutionary resistance like wildfire, encompassing several regions of
Below I am reproducing excerpts from Collected works of the Communist Party of Peru from 1969-87) on the remarkable armed developments which proved mastery practice of mass line by basing itself in the very heart of the masses and the extent to which shivers were sent down the spine of the ruling classes, hurting its very backbone..The reports reveal the great methodology of the Peruvian Communist Party. I suggest all cadres deeply study the PCP collected works which are comparable to the works of Chairman Mao.
'In twenty-one months the Party has vigorously initiated and developed the only means for our people's and nation’s emancipation: the armed struggle, the guerrilla war which blazes victoriously in the two thousand nine hundred armed actions that have swept the land in all but four departments that stirs the jungle, the coast, and the highlands most of all, that shakes the city and especially the countryside, whose struggle is served by the former. Thus, highlands and mountains, which made the country side are the powerful and natural support for any possible revolutionary war in our country. Therefore, this is a peasant war that is being led by the Party of the proletariat. It is converting the countryside into an armed bastion of the revolution, concentrated in base areas -in bases of the New State of workers and peasants, isolating the reactionaries and their imperialist masters in the cities, where the proletariat and the masses, by burning the soles of the enemy's bloody paws mainly through armed actions that serve the struggle in the countryside, the center of the storm, prepare conditions for the final assault on the cities and the total, complete and thorough defeat of the reactionary order and the reactionary army that maintains it. This road, the only road to revolution, is now open; this is the road on which more and more of the proletariat and the masses, our people, are moving toward their own armed emancipation, by their own hands, since: "The people, and the people alone, is the motive force in the making of world history." Two thousand nine hundred actions! These actions that began with the boycott of the general elections of 1980, carried in Chuschi and many other places, striking with agitation and armed propaganda through the seizure of radio stations, leaflets, and posters, and direct actions that sow panic between the reactionaries and arouse the enthusiasm of the people with our rallying cries of "Armed struggle," "Government of workers and peasants," and "Down with the reactionary government " This showed a new world to win through the hammers and sickles that light the hills, and through the unfading red flags proudly waving on top of hills and heights proclaim "It's right to rebel!"
'These actions are armed mobilizations that arouse the peasants, teach the people, and alarm the reactionaries such as those in Miraflores and
'Overwhelming actions that rock the semi-feudal foundations of the state, unleashing armed vindicating actions against big land owners lords of the new and old type, like in Airabamba, Aisarca, Urpihuata, Palermo, Toxama, and Pincos, among others, truly rejoicing of the peasants witnessing a vibrant re-emergence of their hopes and combatively which has never languished. To this list could be added the very important takeovers of cities like Acosvinchos, Vinchos, Cayara, Pomatambo, and Occroro, which intensely and profoundly stir the countryside and promoting the participation of the masses in the armed struggle. Solid actions have hit directly the interests of Yankee imperialism, the principal imperialist power on our soil, such as the attack against Southern in the south of the country, the series of actions against U.S. companies or those connected with them in the capital, and, especially, the resounding blows against the U.S. embassy and the symbolic blasting of Kennedy's statue in Miraflores, as well as the blows at the Chinese embassy, the sinister cave of the revisionist Deng Xiaoping and his lackeys, who is a notorious chum and accomplice of A Yankee imperialism, and vile traitor to the international communist movement and principally to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.'
'In addition, powerful and important actions have been carried out against the state, its repressive apparatus and especially against the police forces. Many actions have been conducted against the courts, government offices, tax offices, voters' registration offices, city halls and ministries, and a great number of the offices of Acción Popular in all over the country, including their central headquarters in Lima, and even the National Parliament and local offices of the police (GC), and the Republican Guard (GR), and PIP throughout the country, as well as the punishment against known agents of repression like those in Arequipa and Huaraz among others, and against certain arrogant landlords and petty landowners known to be enemies of the people and murderers of Maoist combatants. Above all, the very important and audacious assaults on police stations and outposts like those of Ocobamba, Luricocha, La Ramada, Quinua, Tápuc, Yauli, Tambo, Quicapata, Totos, Yanahorco, Acchi, and in Puno and Tacna, whose effectiveness was highly expressed in the recent assault on San Jos&eactute; de Secce; in the disarming of police in Lima and especially Ayacucho; and in the important raid on the naval air base at Callao which they have unsuccessfully tried to cover up. All these actions have hit powerfully at the reactionary armed forces, their personnel contingents who, as mere cannon fodder, are being used for interests other than their own; actions that have allowed us to capture arms from the enemy, the main source of our weapons and, what is most important, it has delivered powerful blows to the morale of the reactionary state apparatus and its support base. Also there has been a brilliant and successful application of the policy of jail breakouts, whose greatest expression was the March 2  assault on the Public Jail of Ayacucho. This was a heroic action that marks an historic milestone in our armed struggle and in the annals of the Peruvian revolution: freeing our comrades and fighters from the dungeons of the reactionary Peruvian state. With the courage, strength and blood of the people s soldiers, our guerrilla war has been strengthened and has taken a great leap in its development. '
'The twenty-nine hundred actions clearly proved our combativeness and bellicosity of our emerging revolutionary armed forces, guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, led absolutely by the Party. The armed actions take place in the countryside and in the cities, mainly in the former, are an armed struggle that assumes diverse forms of action but whose axis is the guerrilla war, which is complemented by other forms of the struggle. These are the armed actions whose support and fuel are the class struggle of our people and thrive solely on the inexhaustible energy. The successful armed actions, offer a bright future and have so far achieved four great victories: First, the tempering of the Party, of leaders cadres, militants, and fighters together in the struggle, they become forged and steeled in the only definitive revolutionary crucible: the armed struggle. Although this is already a great victory, we must add another achievement of obvious and clear significance: the formation and construction of an armed force led by the Party which surges into flames of the guerrilla warfare that will never be extinguished, and is the principal instrument for completing the political tasks of the Peruvian revolution and which, under proletarian leadership, has established an armed force that is developing as an arm of the New State of workers and peasants. A third victory is to be found in the increasing quantity and growing quality achieved by our armed actions, actions that have been taken mass character both in their number and the ability of the sons and daughters of the people to carry them out, as well as the increasing quality shown by the higher level that has been achieved. Finally, a fourth victory, which is the most important and principal: the emergency and development of guerrilla zones within whose boundaries, the vigorous and growing advanced of the guerrilla warfare, we will build our future support bases, those advance revolutionary bastions that are the legacies of the military thought of Chairman Mao Tse-tung, base areas that are the very essence of the road of surrounding the cities from te countryside base areas that are the very essence surrounding the cities from the countryside, the very essence of the People's War.'
In 1988 in the party Congress ideology of 'Gonzalo thought "was proclaimed. The PCP summarized its gains. In depth and in what aspects its armed struggle had characteristics different from that of the Chinese Communists. It countered Kruschevite revisionism at its very roots and in no uncertain terms condemned Khrushchev's criticism of Stalinist personality Cult .They upheld the role of a great leader with reference to writings of even Lenin. It emphasised that the world was on a 'Strategic Offensive as proscribed in the period of 50-100 years by Chairman Mao. An analysis was made on the impact of bureaucratize capital which in its view played a much bigger role in Latin America than in other third world regions..
Sadly after the early 1990's or late 1980's a tendency existed to underestimate the enemy and proclaim that the war was in the stage of strategic equilibrium. Urban insurrections were prematurely launched in the cities to cap the peoples war waged in rural areas with even the Peoples Guerrilla Army engaged in mass work. Military approach or romanticism vitiated the armed struggle and the movement depended too heavily now on the cult of Chairman Gonzalo. as well as errors in building the united front. In this respect Maoist practice of mass line in people’s war was violated .Excesses wee also committed on people in later periods.
I find it hard to visualize how Chairman Gonzalo was captured if the PCP was on the verge of winning the war. Strangely in prison Gonzalo advocated road of negotiation and the armed struggle completely lost its momentum. I am still sympathetic to Gonzalo if you visualise what it would have been to be in his place and whether the letters produced were fake. The fact that a 180 degree turn occurred like a total reversal of a plot in an epic movie depicts certain inherent weaknesses. Still I tooth and nail refute those who term Gonzalo as a capitulationist. The political state in the mid 1990's warranted negotiation with such a setback in peoples war .Never forget that till late 1990's remnants of the war remained
.Prematurely 'Gonzalo' thought was termed as principal or even 'Maoism' which gave the overemphasis on the military line .The evaluation of Leninist era was replaced with analysis of Imperialism crashing within span of 50-100 years and thus defining anew epoch. The slogan of 'Peoples War till Communism 'was raised which negated the concept of dictatorship of the proletariat and even linked peoples war path in a
'Militarization' of the party was propagated which promoted a tendency of fusing the red army and the party. Chairman Gonzalo felt that in Yenan itself the CCP militarized. No doubt the Chinese party under Chairman Mao did militarise itself from the 1930's or even the Bolshevik party but the parties never gave a formal call and Mao emphasised on the important distinction between the party and the military organization. Maoist parties have to militarise like in
Even if thought of Mao Tse Tung became a part of the Constitution of the Chinese Communist party it was never regarded as principal, as Gonzalo thought was proclaimed in 1988. Whatever it's spectacular victories the PCP in 1988 was nowhere so close to toppling the enemy as the CCP was in 1945.To me even if adopting Gonzalo thought it should never have been principal. I negate my earlier evaluation of evaluating Gonzalo to be the greatest Marxist after Mao as it then places his contribution on the same pedestal as a Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, VI Lenin, Joseph Stalin or Mao and negates other great leaders like Chairman Joma Sison. He may be termed as the most 'creative' Maoist leader of the modern era, being a genius in his own right.
Today the supporters of Gonzalo thought like Dem Volke Dienen, Struggle Sessions blog .Maoist party of Brazil etc. must be admired and defended for shimmering the flame of Maoism with untold determination against the counter revolutionary imperialist and revisionist winds. With deep depth of dialectical precision they have defended Marx, Lenin and especially Stalin and Mao. Tooth and nail they have refuted trends which uphold Maoism as a rupture from Leninism and stress the factor of continuity. They have hit post-modernism at its very roots. However they are vitiated with the sectarian understanding that subjective factors exist for carrying out peoples War of the Chinese or Peruvian type and that Chairman Gonzalo's path was applicable in developed countries. This trend underestimates any preparation stages..By advocating Gonzolaite militarisation they virtually rule out mass work. They also uphold concept of 'Great leadership' with reference to Chairman Gonzalo Significant that Gonzolaite forces in recent times like Red Guards Austin and Red Guards Los Angeles have dissolved.
In depth cadres should Study the writings of Chairman Joma Sison on how baseless it is to apply protracted peoples war today in developed countries, refuting writer Ard Kinera. Still I would defend the Gonzolaites from ideological attacks from the Communist party of
Whatever aberrations I recommend all revolutionaries to read the pro-Gonzaloite blogs. A very good article was written defending Gonzoliates by Steve Otto in an article on rebuttal of the statement of the Communist Party of Afghanistan and later to a critique of Chairman Joma Sison. There has been a tendency of certain Maoists who support Communist Party of Philippines to be too harsh to Gonzolaites and PCP practice earlier; like Antonio Belesario. Belesario wrongly alleged that the PCP had deferred war unlike the Philippines Party from 1968-80 as the PCP was still waging a 2 line struggle against the revisionist section within the party to uphold peoples war.
It is still possible that the PCP could resurrect itself from being dead and buried today by making a strong self-criticism of past errors but still upholding the creative genius of the 'Shining path' movement. I feel a great analysis has to be made of the neo-colonial penetration. All revolutionaries should imbibe lessons from the great gains in earlier period. reasons for setbacks. Tears come down our eyes when we remember the cruel assassination of women comrade Edith Lagos in 1986 and the Ayacucho prison massacre. To me even if within the prison walls Chairman Gonzalo is still a living legend whose spirit still shimmers the globe.