Experiencing China in urbanized Peru? This Maoist wanted the peasants to “encircle” the cities

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By Harsh Thakor*
President Gonzalo or Abimael Guzman passed away on September 12. Peruvian Maoist revolutionary and guerrilla leader, considered a terrorist during his lifetime by various governments, his death is said to be mysterious on September 11, 2021 at the Maximum Security Center of the Callao Naval Base, at the age of 86.
His body was cremated at dawn on September 24, 2021 and his ashes were scattered in a secret location to prevent the creation of a shrine honoring him. Exactly 29 years earlier, on September 12, he had been captured by Peruvian police and imprisoned in Callao prison.
Despite a sustained global campaign to demand his release and an ongoing series of trials, the Peruvian state has kept him entrenched within prison walls. It testified that a leader like Gonzalo threatened the very backbone of oppressive neocolonial regimes. Gonzalo was denied the rights promised in a democracy: he was denied the status of political prisoner.
The country’s mainstream media has spared no effort to brand Gonzalo, founder of the Communist Party of Peru – Shining Path (PCP-SL), a tyrant. This, when the masses were enslaved by the trappings of the United States, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which held Peru hostage to debt payments, imposing structural adjustment policies that further impoverished the Peruvians.
Gonzalo’s leadership planted the seeds to overthrow this repressive system. He may be gone, but his spirit is neither dead nor buried. It still shines across the world.
After Deng Xiaoping’s triumph, Gonzalo took it upon himself to pursue the Maoist concept of protracted people’s war in Latin America. It is relevant for India, which too is trapped in the yoke of semi-feudalism and imperialism, with parliamentary democracy taking a back seat and many true democrats incarcerated within prison walls.
From the 1960s, Gonzalo knitted elements to build the breeding ground to launch the bilateral struggle within the party, insisting on the need to move forward with the armed struggle, while charting a path to develop the work politics in rural areas. He imitated a protracted struggle against the established Communist Party leadership, alleging deviation.
In an interview with “El Diaro” in 1988, Gonzalo encompassed different aspects of Marxism and world revolution, saying that a new era was being written in history. Imitating Che Guevera, he illustrated the spiritual aspect of a Marxist revolutionary and how a new man had to be created to reach the very heart of the soul.
Critic of revisionism and defending Mao Zedong for having “raised” Leninism to a higher stage, thus making a universal contribution, he defended Stalin, attacked Gorbachev’s perestroika.
Putting forward a global perspective of the Marxist revolution, Gonzalo analyzed the distinctive characteristics of fascism in Peru and how it had disguised itself. In the field of literature, he reflected on the political lesson of sin, as evidenced by Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”.
Gonzalo’s Shining Path movement sought to follow Che Guevarist’s theory, as applied in Cuba and Nicaragua, to Peru. He favored the people’s guerrilla army encircling the urban areas, practically besieging the administration. He combined self-defense and aggression to confront “the enemy”.

Ironically, he did this in a predominantly urban country. He showed his insight by penetrating the slums of Lima. Mass fronts of women, young people, intellectuals and peasants were formed, forging links with his party.

According to a blog from “Kites”, which is a journal of communist theory and strategy focused on North America, “During the People’s War, Gonzalo’s leadership revealed the potential of urban slums as bases for revolution and forged strategy and tactics to bring revolutionary war to the power centers of the bourgeoisie.These innovations in the strategy of protracted people’s war are of critical importance to revolutionaries today given the massive growth of slums in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

It said: “From its launch in 1980 until the early 1990s, the people’s war in Peru continued to expand, develop local red political power and inflict blows on the enemy in the face of a harsh repression. Gonzalo’s leadership was essential in navigating the twists and turns of the revolution, building the communist vanguard and a revolutionary army under his leadership…”
The blog added: “After he was finally captured on September 12, 1992, Gonzalo stood firm, delivering a defiant speech from a cage to international media in which he insisted his capture was just a turn. on the road and that the revolution could still prevail.”
Joshua Moufawad Paul, Canadian scholar and writer, said, “The PCP-SP came so close to overthrowing the fascist regime in Peru due to the fact that it attracted not only the most marginalized sectors of Peruvian society — women, indigenous peoples, the peasantry, with its agrarian reforms, its attempts at gender equality, etc. – but in general large sectors of the masses. The PCP had even infiltrated the armed forces.”
Gonzalo’s concepts of “party militarization” sought to merge party and military organization, deploying the guerrilla people’s army to undertake mass work in the cities. Excesses were committed by the guerrilla army and romanticism became its dominant feature. Gonzalo couldn’t stop his cult of personality from blossoming, which is similar to praising Stalin or Mao.
There have been demonstrations condemning Gonzalo’s death in Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia or even parts of America. However, there is a prevailing trend that praises “Gonzalo Thought” and promotes him as the greatest Marxist or a fourth sword of Marxism.

Some proponents of “Gonzalo Thought” regard him as the sixth leading communist theorist, continuing the legacy of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. Professor Joma Sison, a Filipino writer and activist who founded the Communist Party of the Philippines, has written that labeling “Gonzalo Thought” modern-era Marxism and taking the Peruvian way as a model, even for a first-world country, was an aberration.

Meanwhile, pro-Gonzoloite Red Guard groups in America and Canada continue their activities, championing his Mao-inspired people’s war views.


*Mumbai-based freelance journalist

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