Rules of the road


On the Shelf

« RCP election analysis | Main | Stan Goff Follows the Logic of the "Refoundation" Logic »

November 25, 2006


Edith Lagos

Kind of misses the INSANE cult of personality around Guzman.

Kind of doesn't get to the issue about their general authoritarian social practice.

This kind of sideways mentions some of the bigger issues. Is Shining Path a functioning organization? Under whose leadership?

They haven't produced any reliable documents in a long time, with a few attacks from time to time.

Impolite as it may be to say it, the various Peruvian exile organizations acted totally bananas. They were supremely dogmatic, cut loose from the certainty of Gonzalo's leadership they became randomly dogmatic.

This criticism holds out the hope that something can come back together there. It seems very timid in its criticism, not going to the root of what it is.


I agree with you with all your points. PCP's legacy is surely something that is need of being and being discussed. At the moment there are various groups calling themselves PCP in Peru, but the Revolution in my opinion is largely defeated. Guzman has called for an end to the fighting from Prison.

Dogmatism and Cultism were a definate problem of the PCP...I do definately agree.


The PCP needs a lot of summing up, there is a lot to examine and reflect on - especially as Nepal develops in the direction it is, in contrast to the PCP experience.

the power of plurality

Noting how Prachanda and the revolutionaries in Nepal really learned from the PCP is important. They neither adopted the liberal/capitlist consensus on Peru, nor took the (insanely) dogmatic positions of Guzman as gospel.

The PCP was a heroic organization at its best, that refused to surrender to the "new world order" like the FLMN and Sandanistas did. They did not limit their horizons to charity (as the Church demanded) and permanent resistance (as the Zapatistas promise).

They were revoutionaries whose own dogmatism and cult of personality did them in more than ANY external pressures and setbacks.

If we make the road by walking, sometimes we learn from some bloody tripping.

This Channel 4 documentary is great, and really fair I think.


What is the situation now like?

What's Left

Not good.

The PCP is not a single functioning organization. The central committee was captured with Guzman, and then two more layers after that.

Because communication broke down, international organizations became fractured – and began to act in very peculiar ways. IMHO.

Gonzalo/Guzman is the author of a "peace accords," which the government seems to see little need to honor. Other leading members are a part of this.

I wouldn't assume the political decapitation of an armed movement isn't enough to call for a cease-fire. It may have been an observation about where things were at. However, I don't believe imprisoned leadership can or should continue to function in the same capacities they had while at large.

Torture and an inability to be a part of the collective leadership of the party in the ways generally assumed under democratic centralism make that well near impossible in any real sense.

There are still armed columns in a couple regions of the country – but nothing like a revolutionary movement. The PCP is not viewed as a romantic organization even in defeat.

The whys and whats of the situation are all and all not good. Repression beat them, dogmatism (and commandism) made them brittle.

Action Jackson

There's an article in the BBC regarding the current, active leader of the PCP offering a truce in exchange for amnesty:


I think there is a lot of hasty retrospective criticism of "dogmatism." We must bear in mind the extraordinary ideological offensive against communism and revolution during the 1980's. This came from the West and the Soviet-controlled "socialist community" as well. The PCP's clear, concise, and unwavering defense of Marxism and revolution was truly a beacon of light under these circumstances. We must not forget this.

a comment

a) I think there is a great deal of superficial response to the substantive criticism of the PCP and Gonzalo raised in AWTW. As if they have given a green light to a gush of dismissive arguments. I have to say that rather than dig into, understand and respond to AWTW arguments, there is a sense of just dismissing the whole PCP thing with familiar and laden catchphrases ("authoritarian," "cultism" etc.) that suggest a whole different approach and line from what AWTW is arguing for.

b) I think Klement's argument is a bit instrumentalist (i.e. their work had a good effect, so let's not look at it to closely.) The argurment that their ideology was 'clear, consise, and unwavering" kinda sidesteps the question of whether it was correct -- or in what ways it was correct and in what ways it was not. We need to really grasp the world in its complexity and on that basis seek change it -- not just take a "firm stand" (however "clear and consise and unwavering") on positions that may promote and embody an inncorect approach.


If anything, the AWTW piece isn't nearly "substantive" enough. It does not get into the issue of militarization, their total inability to work with other political parties and explicit treatment of Gonzalo as something of a demigod.

Most of the meat is about whether or not Gonzalo is the author of the ROL/peace accords. AWTW's analysis of the "Right Opportunist Line" was, in its time substantive.

Whether to wage war at any given moment is NOT the criteria of a healthy political line. The PCP, as Klement points out, was swimming against a very strong current. Of that there is no doubt. They may have formed better alliances if there were better partners to be found. There were not. Most of the so-called left endorsed Fujimori, before he turned on them as well, and some even went so far as to form military-alligned death squads.

Nobody's debating, here, the merits of the Peruvian revisionist left.

The question, especially in terms of what we can learn, is how not to treat our own ideology as a club to beat people with. That's what the PCP by literally every account I've ever read. Including those like the Channel 4 documentary that are sympathetic with them.

I suspect I'm one of less than a 500 people in this whole country who ever attended events in solidarity with the PCP. I have followed this organization very closely since the mid-1980s. While it was absolutely essential to uphold their righteous struggle, it was their weaknesses that led to their downfall, not just effective, brutal counter-insurgency.

Those weaknesses were dogmatism, commandism, miliarism, and an anti-Materialist cult of personality (for which there is no other word) that treated Gonzalo/Guzman as infallible.

He was and is not. Communist parties are run by DEMOCRATIC CENTRALIST methods, which includes the supervision of leadership. The PCP has no such principle.

"We are condemned to victory."

Apparently not. And from that defeat, Maoism has been dealt a generational blow in Latin America.

one into two

Klement says there is hasty criticism of dogmatism here, but is "hasty" really the word, and is "dogmatism" the extent of the problem?

Shining Path rose up during a time of global defeat of the left. Much of their isolation can be blamed on the sell-out of the "legal" left, who chose to attempt a place at Fujimori's table rather than join the people's war. They were never able to develop an effective urban strategy, often relying on assassinations and car bombings.

The model community of Raucana was an exception, as was the mass work in Villa El Salvador (no relation to the country).

Repression works, and the decapitation of the political leadership was fatal in that they had long placed Gonzalo on something more than a pedastal. He was treated as infallible, which combined with the notable sectarianism of the Shining Path produced what one comment above called a "brittle leadership."

Criticizing these errors, which contributed to political defeat, is crucial for the rebuilding of the organization.

As friends and comrades we should make these criticisms, and to be blunt – the RIM should produce a more serioius piece, ideally with contributions from Peru.

The masses are moving in Latin America, and throughout Peru there are many who don't share the bourgeoisie's assessment of the struggle. That must be built off of.

All my sympathies are with the imprisoned comrades. All my hopes are with the rebels at liberty.

For the rest of us, we must learn from the positive and negative experience in Peru. They put people's war on the world map, but did it in some ways that have cast a negative shadow – particularly in Latin America where revolution is on continental agenda.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Hot Shots