Juan Fajardo critiques Louis Proyect paper on the Communist Party of Peru (available on his web page)

On 4 May 1998, Louis Proyect posted a message revealing some "empirical facts" about the PCP. He said he thought the PCP merited a closer look. I agree, but I also think Louis' collection of "empirical facts" merits a closer look of their own. Below are a few tht I selected, or caught my eye, but certainly not all that his posting contained, each followed by comments and observations on my part:

(1) > The Communist Party of Peru--dubbed the "Shining Path" (Sendero Luminoso) > by the bourgeois press and its leftist opponents--got its start in the > 1960s.

Actually, the party was founded as a separate political entity in 1970.

(2) > Anibal Guzman, a philosophy professor at the University of Ayacucho, > decided to construct a new revolutionary movement in Peru

*Abimael* Guzman, actually.

(3) > A Senderologist is an > academic expert on the Shining Path insurgency, who is also a political > opponent.

The term was coined to describe social scientists who made their living studying the PCP. Most came to oppose the PCP and those who did not were unable to get to press. The term is thus politically neutral in itself.

(4) > Guzman wrote in his 1975 speech "Let Us Retake Mariategui And > Reconstitute His Party" that: > > "We see it [semi-feudalism] today, despite the years elapsed, because it > persists and new forms of semi-feudal roots are developed, forms of unpaid > labor, family obligations and deferred salaries, personal privileges, > maintenance and fusion of old latifundio and the preponderance of > gamonalismo, under cover of new conditions and high sounding words. > Semi-feudalism, harshly attacked in years past has developed into a > self-evident truth, since the class struggle itself, with the rural > explosion we have seen so many times, the agrarian reforms and the > counter-revolutionary action we have seen since the 1960's, show the > semi-feudal base of Peruvian society." > > [...] > > The definitive counter-analysis of agrarian relations in the 1960s comes > from a Maoist leader named Antonio Díaz Martínez, who wrote "Hunger and > Hope in Ayacucho" [...] Díaz Martínez came to the conclusion [...] that > the main problem was still the domination of the atifundio. [...] Land > hunger was not satisfied by the Velasco reforms. [...] > > "La concentración terratiente y la profundizatión del capitalismo > buricrático acentúan en forma violenta la expulsión, expropriación y > explotación del campesinos pobres. [C]omo consecuencia [...] > entre 1963-64, [...] entre 500 y 600 mil campesinos - iniciaron > masivas invasiones de tierras [...]" >

While Antonio Díaz Martínez justly deserves the praise and admiration he earned from fellow academics in Peru, his analyses in "Ayacucho: hambre y esperanza" cannot be used to argue against the Velasquista reforms, as you seem to be using them here, because they were of conditions in Ayacucho in the mid-1960's and the bulk of the reforms came later, from 1969-1973. The PCP moreover is talking about Peru as a semi-feudal country in the 1970s and 1980s, so why counter that argument with an analysis of the 1960s, and one that took place BEFORE the largest restructuring of landholding in the countryside in the country's modern history?

Moreover, the effect of Díaz Martínez's influence on PCP thinking and policy has perhaps been overestimated through the years. Let's recall, shall we, that at the time he was captured in the early '80s he was no longer held any important post in the PCP? He certainly helped place cadres in the countryside through the contacts that he had established, and helped determine Chuschi as the place to start, but his influenec may not extend beyond that initial period. Indeed by 1981 he had already broken party discipline by publishing -with Luis Kawata Makabe- a factional journal, "Nueva Democracia", openly the party's political and military line and calling for a purely-peasant war. His group was defeated and its leaders purged from positions of influenece in the party. Kawata "deserted", Maximiliano Durand Araujo left the country, and Díaz Martínez became a mid-level cadre in Lima.

Yes, it is true that the Agrarian Reform hardly touched Ayacucho, but this was not due to the power of local landlords, although there were a few notorious examples like the Parodi borthers, but because of a dearth of holdings large enough to fall into the expropriable category. As a power base the landlords in Ayacucho had been in steady decline for years and by 1969 when riots erupted in Ayacucho and nearby Huanta, they were entirely absent from the political scene. The demands for land in Ayacucho, in fact, had to be met by illegally expropriating holdings that were too small to be affected by the Agrarian Reform law.

Furthermore, the PCP was aguing that since the 1920s when Mariategui look at Peru's land tenure structure, nothing substantial had changed. But, in fact, much changed as the senderistas themselves had to obliquely admit when they presented evidence for their claim that Peru continued to be semi-feudal. In 1986 when in "Desarrollar la Guerra Popular sirviendo a la revolucion mundial!"they addressed the question they tacitly admitted that the latifundists were gone from the countryside, by arguing that peasant membership in the cooperatives established under the agrarian reform law constituted servile relations of production. In other words, the peasants, were still tied, as they had been to the landlords, but now to the cooperatives - cooperatives which they themselves ran and in which they were full members. If the cooperatives can be criticized on any grounds, and they certainly can and ought to be, it is not on that count! Add to this the fact that the countryside was rapidly being depopualated throughout the 1980s -in 1988, by one estimate, Lima was receiving up to 1000 refugees and immigrants per day!- in no small measure due to the PCP's own activities, and the only area where rural population was growing was the coca-producing Huallaga Valley, were there were no latifundists and an agrarian reform platform would attract no one. Perhaps, it should not surprise anyone that after its I Congress in 1988 the PCP quietly dropped agrarian reform and semi-feudalism from the prominence they had received until then. Since then, they are paid no more than lip service in the rote slogans and characterizations of Peruvian society that appear from document to document and interview to interview to interview.

(5) > The political understanding they > brought with them is rooted in the analysis of Guzman's blend of Maoism and > Mariátegui, and Díaz Martínez's study of the Ayacucho countryside. >

Actually Mariategui does not figure as prominently in PCP thinking as he is made out to be. The role he served was to provide a nationalist vehicle for the party to adopt Maoism as its dominant ideology. The process worked thusly: 1) Mariategui said Peru is semifeudal and semicolonial; 2) There hasn't been a revolution, so nothing must have changed; 3) Mariategui did not develop a revolutionary strategy for a semifeudal and semicolonial society; 4) Mao did; 5) Let's take up Mao's strategy. Once that was accomplished, Mariategui was allowed to slip away: out of Party discourse, out of Party iconography.

I could go on, but it's late.

- Juan

>> A successful peasant revolution in Peru based on the model of Mao's China would be of tremendous political consequence. It is a sign of the declining self-confidence of the Marxist movement that this obvious truth has been lost among endless discussion of human rights. Louis Proyect <<

I just checked my Compton's for the population figures on Peru. It lists the 1990 population figures for the country at 22 million, with the rural sector comprising 28% and the urban 71%.

If these figures are correct, how can we talk about a peasant revolution in Peru along the Chinese model? Apparently the country has already invaded the city.

It would seem we need some facts about the urban population. How many are in industry, services, street peddlers etc.? Is the rate of depopulation of the countryside holding steady, increasing or decreasing? How successful has Fujimori been in creating a friendly environment for foreign investment? At 01:15 PM 5/5/98 -0400, Jon F wrote:

> I just checked my Compton's for the population figures on Peru. It lists >the 1990 population figures for the country at 22 million, with the rural >sector comprising 28% and the urban 71%.

I am convinced on the basis of sources that the PCP would condemn for the way they allow themselves to be pressurised in their reporting, that there is substantial terrain in Peru suitable to a peoples war. And it is of course the absolute right of the people of Peru to rebel and to make revolution, as it is of the people of Colombia, and has been of the people of England, the USA, and France and all other counties.

And to do so and expect respect for their right to do so even despite the counter-information from the highly repressive regime's media management, and their extensive dirty tricks and the use of torture, and despite the fact that the revolutionaries will of course make mistakes.

While I have not read all of Louis P's posts on Peru more recently, I am broadly in agreement with what I have read and appreciate the approach.

There is a strategic problem here that Jon F signals. My understanding is that the Peru conurbation is now 7 million. A strategy of people's war which does not address how they will feed themselves after the revolution without importing substantial supplies of food on terms agreeable to the IMF, is an incomplete strategy. The strategy of autarchy in Cambodia presented major problems, to put it mildy, and my understanding is that Lima, unlike Phnom Penh, is surrounded by rather arid terrain.

There is no rule that people cannot rebel and make revolution unless they have a complete strategy approved by western intellectuals in advance, but it suggests to me that the success or otherwise of people's war in Peru (and elsewhere) now depends also, alongside many other factors, on how the united front works among the progressive sectors of the population living in the great conurbations.

One of several reasons why I have written little on Peru for I think two years is that I agree it is presumptuous for westerners to take sides or even appear to take sides, on how the progressive forces appraise their strategy and tactics in necessarily difficult conditions. And I think it would be wise to keep some distance on this. Nevertheless I think in overall terms John Flanders is right in highlighting a major strategic issue, which if identified correctly, perhaps the progressive and international forces can try to address in another way, without attempting to judge the decisions of those on the ground inside the country.

Chris Burford >> There is a strategic problem here that Jon F signals. My understanding is that the Peru conurbation is now 7 million. A strategy of people's war which does not address how they will feed themselves after the revolution without importing substantial supplies of food on terms agreeable to the IMF, is an incomplete strategy. <<Chris B

I have an old Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia from the 70's, which makes it possible to check some facts from thirty years ago.

In 1970 Peru's population was around 13 million, with almost 4 million in Lima. *Organized* workers, according to F&A, numbered 500,000. 50% of the population worked in agriculture.

Contrast this to Cambodia, with a population of 8 million at the time. 600,000 lived in Pnom Penh, eighty-five% worked in agriculture, and there were *8,000* industrial workers. It doesn't say they were organized.

Even then, it would be hard to apply the same strategy to these two countries.

Jon Flanders On Tue, 5 May 1998, Jonathan Flanders wrote:

>I just checked my Compton's for the population figures on Peru. It lists > the 1990 population figures for the country at 22 million, with the > rural sector comprising 28% and the urban 71%. > >If these figures are correct, how can we talk about a peasant revolution > in Peru along the Chinese model? Apparently the country has already > invaded the city.

Those figure are correct, and they represent part of the reason why the PCP itself does not talk about a peasant revolution along the Chinese model in a strict sense. Recognizing the strategic importance of the cities, in fact of Lima, in a "macrocephalic" country, the PCP acted in the cities and in the capital from the outset of the war. Abimael Guzman referred to this strategy as "unitary people's war" which would be carried out simultaneously in city and countryside, with the country as the primary theatre and the city as a necessaty, but complementary, theatre. Beginning in 1986-87 (or thereabouts) until 1992, Lima came to be increasingly important for the PCP but limitations in its ability to organize in the city -lack of acceptance by workers, rejecvtion by refugees, insufficient number of proletarians in the party, infiltration and captures by the police and army, and not least of all, competition from other parties- kept it from taking full advantage of the opportunity for growth it saw in that period. Since Guzman's capture, the main theatre of operations has again become the countryside.

The strategy of "unitary people's war" was not uncontroversial within the PCP, it should be noted. Antonio Diaz Martinez, for one, along with Luis Kawata Makabe, opposed it early on, going so far as to publish three issues of a journal, Nueva Democracia, in 1980-81, in which, under the slogan "the people's war is a peasant war or it is nothing!", they attacked Guzman's military line and called for a purely-peasant war. Kawata left the party for some years as a result of the fight that occurred over this, and Diaz Martines was demoted within the organization. That fight, however, was not unexpected. It was one of the reasons for which Guzman and his closest associates in the PCP decided to postpone the party's I Congress until AFTER the war had begun, figuring that no one would be able to oppose his line once events were in motion and the party had already been militarized.

"Unitary people's war" arose again as an issue, in fact, when the I Congress was finally held in January 1988. There, it is believed, Guzman was opposed by a bloc headed by his wife, Augusta LaTorre(c. "Norah"), and his close associate and former student, Osman Morote Barrionuevo (c. "Remigio"), who questioned the growing emphasis on urban actions. The Congress, nonetheless, voted to uphold Guzman's line. Morote, it seems, was also demoted from the Central Committee to the Metropolitan Committee. LaTorre, for her part, died under mysterious circumstances later in 1988, and some believe she took her own life.

On Wed, 06 May 1998, Chris Burford wrote:

> There is a strategic problem here that Jon F signals. My understanding is > that the Peru conurbation is now 7 million. A strategy of people's war > which does not address how they will feed themselves after the revolution > without importing substantial supplies of food on terms agreeable to the > IMF, is an incomplete strategy. > The strategy of autarchy in Cambodia presented major problems, to put it > mildy, and my understanding is that Lima, unlike Phnom Penh, is surrounded > by rather arid terrain.

You are right, Lima is surrounded by arid desert, most of its food comes from the central highlands and the jungle via the Central Highway. Sendero, in fact, does not seem to have a plan for how to feed all the millions in Lima after the ravages of a civil war itense enough for a rebel army to seize power. Moreover, the PCP expects that it will have to face invasion by neighboring countries, thus prolonging the strife. When asked, in 1988, about plans for supplying and feeding the country and army after the seizure of power, Guzman revealed that he had no plans for that, but trusted that "someone will sell to us."

Chris B. also added:

> One of several reasons why I have written little on Peru for I think two > years is that I agree it is presumptuous for westerners to take sides or > even appear to take sides, on how the progressive forces appraise their > strategy and tactics in necessarily difficult conditions.

It is not presumtuous, unless one approaches matters in a presumtuos way. If one is open to learning, but also honest in one's questions and criticisms there need not be any presumtuousness involved. Also, rememeber, that while people on the ground in other areas of the world have the knowledge of their concrete conditions, we in the West have the advantage of having acces to history books and the works of revolutionaries from all over the world, so we have a store of knowledge that can be quite valuable if shared correctly.

As for Peru, recall that it, too, is a Western country, part of Western society and civiization. Moreover, the notion that one should not judge the PCP on the grounds that it is "preumtuous ... to take sides ... on how progressive forces appraise their strategy" requires the presupposition that the PCP is a progressive force.

-- Juan Fajardo