The Shining Path and indigenismo

Juan, what are your thoughts on the question of whether the PCP tries to suppress indigenous identity or not. Geraldo Renique stated that one of the main differences between Mariategui and Gonzalo is over this question, that Gonzalo fought against any expression of Incan identity. When I portrayed Mariategui accurately as pro-indigenist, Dan Axtell said I was misrepresenting the facts and quoted a long-winded speech by Gonzalo to back his case. Meanwhile, DeGregori has argued that there are elements of an anti-European, pro-Incan outlook in the Shining Path, not unlike Tupac Amaru's revolt in the 19th century. Gonzalo, by this interpretation, becomes a new Incan cacique. Also, can you recommend any good literature on the question in Spanish or English? My guess is that there will be much more of the former.

The Degregori argument you refer to is, I assume, found in his book "Que Dificil es ser Dios" or perhaps in his article in NACLA, "A Dwarf Star." I've not read either lately, and lost my copy of the former some years ago, so I can't comment on it specifically. However, I have never bought such arguments because I can't find anything in Senderista literature to back them up. Moreover, any "anti-European" elements might be equally attributable to the PCP's Sinophilism.

As for the PCP defending or respecting indigenous culture, it does not.

In the early days --1980 to 1982-- in what could be called Sendero's romantic period, there were efforts to reach out to the Quechua-speaking population on its terms. In part that was a political effort carried out by means of slogans in Quechua. On the other hand, and mainly, it was simply the result of local militants working in their own region and own communities, and coming out of other struggles, so they had other agendas and tarining. After the military repression was unleashed militants were moved around the country to areas where they could not be identified and hence where they had no affinities. Also, after that early period, militants mostly go straight into Sendero or move into it from PCP-dominated or PCP front organizations, and the emphasis is military, not social. When these new militants say "serve the people" it likely to be an abstract people, not real communities, nor real relatives and neighbors whose needs are known and felt.

The PCP militants do speak to peasants in Quechua and Aymara, the principal Indian languages. However, that is not in itself indicative of indigenism as much as of practicality. In fact, there are reports of the PCP discouraging the use of Quechua in some areas, and talking of eventually imposing Spanish to unite the country. Those reports are, however, always anecdotal and may not truly reflect PCP policy.

What is reflective of PCP policy is the absence of the "Indian question" and of discussion of racism in all of the PCP's principal public documents since 1975. What is reflective of PCP policy is the PCP's replacing communal traditional authorities with its own People's Commissars. What is reflective of PCP policy is the banning in PCP-controlled areas of ancient religious festivals. And, what is reflective of PCP policy is its opposition --at gun-point-- to Ashaninka claims for self-determination.

I won't say that this is evidence of racist intent by the PCP. It has more to do with Peru's unwillingness and, indeedm inability to deal with racism in Peru. On the one hand, racism is often identified with segregation a la USA, which does not exist in Peru, but which's lurid image allows Peruvians to duck the question when it comes to Peru itself. Another is that there is simply not the language necessary to discuss it in the terms in which we can discuss it in the USA. For one thing, racial categories in Peru have been distilled into: a) whites -- Europeans and light-skinned mestizos; b) cholos -- dark-skinned mestizos and Indians who have abandoned Indians ways of life; c) Indians -- native people who live according to traditional ways; d) blacks --descendants of Africans; e) chinese -- people of Asian descent - regardless of national origin; and, f) natives -- Amazonian natives; as can be seen by that categorization, ethnicity plays a big part in determining racial category, for example, in determining who is considered "white" vs ""cholo", or "cholo" vs "Indian." And, that ethnic component is saturated with economic determinants, thus to be Indian means to live as an Indian, which means to live as a peasant in the countryside. So the class component gets automatically mixed in.

That complexity makes it possible, for example, for there to be light-skinned and blue-eyed Indians in the north and in parts of Ayacucho and Cusco, and whites who in the US would be considered dark-skinned. The categories are intuitive but undefined. And the left, with its emphasis on class, has not made any move to define the issue. On the one hand, they can't do it any easier than anyone else. And, secondly, they are afraid of the issue for, as Peasant Confederation leaders once told me, it could be divisive.

Many on the left do at least recognize it as an issue, albeit one that they'd rather deal with "after the revolution." The PCP, however, does not even bring it up. It dismisses the Incas as part of "thirteen centuries of reactionary state in Peru." It speaks in metaphyisical terms and quasi-mystical imagery of "five billion years of matter in motion," light, darkness, fire, blood. Not of the earth, the sun, the moon, the mountains which are central images and archetypes in Andean thinking. There is no indigenismo in the PCP.

As for books, Louis, I would suggest:

Deborah Poole & Gerardo Renique's book _Peru: Time of Fear_ which I suspect you might be already aware of;

Carlos Ivan Degregori's works are all good and basic readings on the PCP, for eaxmple, _"Sendero Luminoso": I. Los hondos y mortales desencuentros; II. Lucha armada y utopía autoritaria_ (Lima: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1987) and _El surgimiento de Sendero Luminoso, Ayacucho 1969-1979_ (Lima: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1990);

And, look at the PCP's own documents, many of which are available on-line, and judge for yourself particularly important are "Bases for Discusion" and the Gonzalo interview with El Diario. (BTW, what speech did Axtell cite?)

Beyond that, I'm not sure, right now, what I could suggest. I sent Les Schaffer the list of sources I used in writing the two chapters I posted, I guess I can just append it to this, for whatever it's worth.

I hope that this has been clear. Sorry if it isn't. Let me know and I'll try again.

- Juan Fajardo

SOURCES (non-alphabetical listing):

Communist Party of China, Central Committee, _A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement_ (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1963)

Carlos Iván Degregori, _El surgimiento de Sendero Luminoso, Ayacucho 1969-1979_ (Lima: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1990)

_Bandera Roja_, 17 April 1964.

Mao Tsetung, "The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party." In Mao Tsetung, _Selected Works_, v. II (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1967)

Mao Tsetung, "Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society" and "How to Differentiate the Classes in the Rural Areas." In _Selected Works_, v. I (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1967).

Partido Comunista Peruano, _Conclusiones y resoluciones de la V Conferencia Nacional del P.C.P._ (Peru: Ediciones Bandera Roja, 1977).

José Sotomayor Pérez. _¿Leninismo o maoísmo?_ (Lima: s.n., 1979)

PC del P - Patria Roja, "La lucha por la construcción del partido," _Critica Marxista-Leninista_, no. 5 (1972): 76-101.

_Resumen Semanal_, (Lima) vol. IV, no. 141.

Gonzalo, "Presidente Gonzalo rompe el silencio." _El Diario_, 24 July 1988.

PCP, Comité Central, __Bases de discusión (s.l.: Ediciones Bandera Roja, 1987)

Leopoldo Carbajal, "Sendero Luminoso." _Encuentro_, no. 21/22, April 1983, p. 15;

Roger Mercado Ulloa, _Los partidos políticos en el Perú_ (Lima: )

Miguel Gutierrez, _La Generación del 50: Un mundo dividido_ (Lima: Ediciones Sétimo Ensayo, 1988), pp. 258-59.

Alvaro Rojas Samanez, _Partidos políticos en el Perú_ (Lima: Editorial F & A, 1987)

PCP, Comité Central, "Declaración del Segundo Pleno del C.C. del P.C.P." In _Voz Popular_, no. 4, April 1976, p. 2

"Resoluciones del II Pleno del Comité Central del PCP, Julio de 1970." Quoted in Piedad Pareja Pflucker, _Terrorismo y sindicalismo en Ayacucho (1980)_ (Lima: Empresa Editora Ital-Perú, 1981)

"Nueva Crónica y Buen Gobierno." Supplement to _Narración_, no. 2, July 1971

_El Diario_ [de Marka], 8 January 1983.

PCP, Comité Central, _¡Retomemos a Mariátegui y reconstituyamos su partido!_ Peru: Comité Central del PCP, 1975)

Carlos Ivan Degregori, _"Sendero Luminoso": I. Los hondos y mortales desencuentros; II. Lucha armada y utopía autoritaria_ (Lima: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1987)

Círculo de Estudios José Carlos Mariátegui (Programa de Literaturas Hispánicas de la Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos), "Manifiesto" (Lima, 21 August 1973), leaflet.

Centro de Trabajo Intelectual "Mariátegui", _Esquemas de estudio: Marxismo; Pensamiento de José Carlos Mariátegui; Situación actual del país_ (Lima: Centro de Trabajo Intelectual "Mariátegui", 1973).

Carol Andreas, _When Women Rebel: The Rise of Popular Feminism in Peru_ (Westport, Connecticutt: Lawrence Hill, 1985)

Carol Andreas, "Women at War." _NACLA Report on the Americas_, December/January 1990/1991.

Movimiento Femenino Popular, _El marxismo, Mariátegui, y el movimiento femenino_ (Lima: Ediciones Emancipación de la Mujer, 1975)

Frente Estudiantíl Revolucionario. "Asamblea Nacional del FER (Mayo de 1973)." _FER Por el luminoso sendero de Mariátegui_, vol. I, no. 1, January 1974.

Manuel Jesús Granados, _La conducta política: un caso particular._ Thesis, Anthropology Department, UNSCH, Ayacucho, 1981

PCP "Problemas actuales del trabajo del partido entre las masas: Plan de investigación (Lima, marzo 1974)" In _El desarrollo de las ideas marxistas en el Perú_ (Lima: Editorial Pedagógica Asencios, 1979)

PCP, Comité Central, "Desarrollar la construcción, principalmente del partido, en función de la lucha armada (Declaración del VI y VII Plenos del Comité Central)." In PCP, Comité Central, _El partido, la guerra popular y el boicot_ (s.l.: Ediciones Bandera Roja, 1989)

PCP, Comité Central. _!Elecciones, no! ¡Guerra popular, sí!_ (s.l.: Ediciones Bandera Roja, 1990)

Lewis Taylor, _Maoism in the Andes_ (University of Liverpool Centre for Latin American Studies, 1983).

Angel Páez, "El senderismo por dentro." _La República_, 28 June 1987.

Gonzalo (Abimael Guzmán), "Somos los iniciadores." In Luis Arce Borja, _Guerra popular en el Perú: El Pensamiento Gonzalo_ (Brussels: s.n., 1989)

Billie Jean Isbell, _The Emerging Patterns of Peasants' Responses to Sendero Luminoso_ (New York: Patterns of Social Change in the Andes Research Conference, 1988)


As a rather basic gloss, I would say that this is the case. Mariategui emphasizes ethnicity, whereas Prez Gonzalo emphasized class more. I've thought a lot about class vs. ethnic identities as bases for organizing revolutionary movements, and I no longer think that the two can be so easily separated. I think one of the best statements on the subject's remains Mariategui's 1928 essay on the Indian Question in _Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality_ (published in English by UT Press). An ethnic interpretation is critical, but you can't understand this outside of the hard concrete economic realities of the land tenure system.

Can Mariategui accurately be regarded as pro-indigenist?

It is also important to recognize what it means to be an "indigenista." Although Mariategui was much more sensitive then most others who were part of this movement, you must keep in mind that he was an urban mestizo outsider interpreting Indian realities. This is important when you look at issues of self determination. On the other hand, I would say that the Zapatistas in Chiapas and (to a lesser extent) the EGP in Guatemala are expressions of Indians mobilizing to defend their own interests. As Che unfortunately learned the hard way in Bolivia in 1967, there is a down side to outsiders coming into an area and trying paternalistically to organize a movement.

Also, can you recommend any good literature on the question in Spanish or English? My guess is that there will be much more of the former.

Duke University Press has a new edited volume out by Steve Stern, _Sendero and other paths_. I would say that this is now the standard work in English on the topic. Unfortunately, the discourse in this book is rather limited (there are no pro-sendero voices), I think this is an important book for anyone who is trying to make sense of the sendero phenomenon.

Marc Becker


Is this the same Marc Becker who wrote the wonderful book on Mariategui and Latin American Marxism? Honored to have you here. I've always wondered why the PCP was successful, to the extent it was, and other groups like Blanco's Trotskyists and the 60's generation of guerillias who operated in the Abancay-Juliaca area weren't.In my short time in the central highlands, I noticed a bitter animosity between the highland peoples of all classes and the peoples of Lima. The highlanders are fiercely proud of their rugged lives in that very unhospitable geography. These feelings would, I think, make them susceptible to Maoist movements. It also points to the strength of Mao's analysis of peasant and semi-feudal social relations. A couple more tidbits; the Andes are now under heavy military control. The military is engaged in widespread indoctrination and disinformaton programs. In Ayacucho, I saw the military marching schoolchildren through the streets chanting militarist slogans. Also, I spoke to a schoolteacher in Ayacucho who said that all teachers must undergo background checks and ideological screening/indoctrination before they can go to work. That said, the PCP did have a wide base of popular support amongst all classes in Peru. I met many sympathizers of all ages.

Sam Pawlett


In San Cristobal, there's a "Jaguar House" where a couple -- Bohm, perhaps, was their name, if I recall (a Dutch man and Austro-German woman) -- did quite extraordinary and at face value very progressive anthropological and ecological work with (not just on) the Mayan people of the Lacandan jungle. The woman, who died at age 90 a few years ago, had quite strong roots to German revolutionary socialist traditions, it appeared from the official bio that was provided at the Jaguar House. I gathered she spent a fair bit of time, just after going into exile in the late 1930s, in Mexico City hanging out with Rivera and others, and probably Trotsky. Maybe your list Trotskyologists would know of any particular connections that proved durable, Louis; could be worth your following up for the sake of trying to clarify what it was that informed Trotsky about native cultures, and how these came to be known and codified by outsiders with ambitions of "upliftment"...

Patrick Bond


Sam Pawlett wrote:

I've always wondered why the PCP was successful, to the extent it was, and other groups like Blanco's Trotskyists and the 60's generation of guerillias who operated in the Abancay-Juliaca area weren't.

The reasons, of course, are open to conjecture. I would suggest that --outside of internal factors (ideology, organization, etc)-- several factors contributed:

a) class: The sector of the peasantry which the PCP has approached has consistently been the those who have been most marginalized and poorest(except in the coca-producing Hualaga Valley), whereas in 1963 Hugo Blanco helped organize the middle and rich peasant layer of the La Convencion Valley. These farmers had grown economically from high wages after a malaria epidemic reduced the valley's population by 60%, and then had benefited from the coffee boom. With the coffee market expanding they had high incentive for demanding land redistribution, and with growth of the town of Quillabamba and the railroad they could market their produce and buy supplies independently of the hacendados. They had the incentive to struggle, the wherewithal to carry it out, and demands which could be met locally and specifically. When the fight was over they were at the top of the local food chain, and had plenty of reasons to avoid radicalism.

b) economics: The 1960s were a time of prosperity, relatively speaking, in which it was possible even for small agriculturalists to make a better living than they had earlier, for example through coffee, cacao, etc. Moreover, as development and infrastructure expanded, opportunities opened up that had not existed before for insertion into the national economy. The 1980s were a time of unremitting crisis, with effects on family and community economics which literacy, road access, arrival of civil service jobs, higher education, crop substitution, etc. --the patches of the 1960s-- could not alleviate, much less resolve.

c) timing: Blanco in 1963, the ELN in 1963 and 1965, and the MIR in 1965, all tried to start a revolution at a time when reforms were being made. President Belaunde initiated an agrarian reform in 1963, and the military junta which took power in 1968 extended and deepened that reform process, and opened land routes into the Amazon, thus satisfying in some measure the principal demand in some conflictive areas (north coast, Cusco, Puno, central highlands): land. No such process existed in the 1980s except for the accelerated settlement of the Amazon as the coca boom developed, and those settlers had reason to want state agents evicted. For this they first threw themselves behind drug dealers, and when these became abusive, to the MRTA and the PCP.

Juan Fajardo