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One grave many will want to piss on


Abimael Guzmán, aka Comrade Gonzalo, died yesterday. Guzmán, a former philosophy professor, was the founder and autocratic leader of the Communist Party of Peru-Shining Path. Under his direction, the party went beyond the standard Stalinist adaptations to middle-class centrism at the expense of revolutionary politics to create one of the most anti-working class so-called communist parties in history.

The Shining Path had its roots in the Communist Party of Peru-Red Flag, founded by Maoists in the Peruvian Communist Party who split when that party endorsed Khrushchev's line over Mao's. Guzmán's movement, which originated among students in the university attracted to the activity of the ultraleftist Red Guards during China's Cultural Revolution, took a position of absolutely no disagreement with any utterance or position of Mao. After their founding in 1969 ... at the height of the Cultural Revolution and shortly after Peru's leftist military coup ... they competed in student council elections and, after taking over a majority in 2 large universities and large minorities in many others including the nation's largest in 1973-1975, used its power to bully students into supporting it and attack anti-government parties in the labor movement ... leading (along with the death of Mao and the institutional attacks on the democratic element of the Cultural Revolution followed by the leadership's repudiation of it) to catastrophic defeats in these elections in 1975-1976. They spent the next several years organizing street fights against other student radicals and inciting students demonstrations to violence which ended with the defeat and repression of the students while denouncing the 1978 military coup and new Constitution, and continuing to support the line of the Chinese Communist Party as this party turned away from the leftist politics of the Cultural Revolution.

In 1980, influenced by Mao's theory of Protracted People's War and the foquismo theory of Blanquist peasant guerrilla warfare popularized by Regis Debray and Che Guevara, Guzmán led the Shining Path into the rural highlands of south-central Peru where they attempted to win local majorities in the country's first multiparty elections in years through violent attacks on opposition strongholds, then organized young indigenous people to attack towns and hold mass denunciations of the wealthy, cocaine producers, thieves, rapists, child molesters, wife-beaters, and homosexuals who were executed en masse. Despite their brutality they gained support among some peasants for their anti-Crime crackdowns, their appeals to antigay prejudice, and their killings of hated landlords, and were able with financial assistance from Libya's Muammar al-Gaddafi to establish zones under control of their military from which to wage an essentially defensive asymmetric guerrilla war typified by massacres of villages that resisted their attempts to take control and bombings of infrastructure, government and ruling party buildings, and civilian targets in Lima and the other big cities.

As they came to face severe government repression and growing opposition from local peasants, and finding themselves cut off from the urban working class by their strategy of Protracted People's War, their anti-union sectarianism, and their reactionary attacks on human rights including gay rights, the Shining Path responded by waging a war of extermination against all other leftist movements and the unions in an effort, inspired at least in spirit by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, to force workers and peasants to side with either the Shining Path or the reactionary capitalist government by eliminating any leftist alternative. Many leftists and union leaders were assassinated by their attacks.

Under influence from Guzmán and following the departure of left-wing opponents of the direction of the Chinese Communist Party under Deng, the U.S.'s Bay Area Revolutionary Union, originally the least dogmatic of the remnants of the old Students for a Democratic Society, evolved in a similarly reactionary, cultish, autocratic, and anti-labor direction to become today's Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, a group aligned with the Shining Path in the Revolutionary International Movement and the political party backed by the famous Rage Against the Machine. The Shining Path was also directly allied in armed struggle with Colombia's Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, another group problematically attempting the strategy of Protracted People's War at the expense of many civilian lives.

The dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori, one of the most viciously antidemocratic Latin American regimes of my lifetime, was established following his election due largely to frustration at the government's failure to repress the Shining Path. Following mass killings of Shining Path-friendly villages and massacres of leaders by military forces and defeat by unsympathetic peasant militia, Guzmán was captured and imprisoned in 1992, precipitating a near-collapse of the Shining Path although the group continues to stick around and carry out terrorist attacks.

There is absolutely nothing revolutionary about the politics of Abimael Guzmán and as a pitiless anti-labor renegade from communism he deserves nothing but contempt.