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Experimenting China in urbanised Peru? This Maoist wanted peasants to 'encircle' cities

By Harsh Thakor* 

Chairman Gonzalo or Abimael Guzman died on September 12 last year. A Peruvian Maoist revolutionary and guerrilla leader, considered a terrorist by various governments during his lifetime, his is said to be a mystious death on September 11, 2021 at the Maximum Safety Centre of the Callao Naval Base, at the age of 86.
His body was cremated on the dawn of September 24, 2021 and his ashes were dispersed in a secret location in order to prevent a shrine honouring him from being created. Exactly 29 years earlier, on September 12, he was captured by the Peruvian police and placed in the Callao prison.
In spite of a sustained worldwide campaign to demand his release and continuous spate of trials, the Peruvian state kept him entrenched within the jail walls. This testified that a leader like Gonzalo threatened the very backbone of the oppressive neo-colonial regimes.Gonzalo was infringed of rights promised in a democracy: He was denied the political prisoner status.
The dominant media in the country left no stone unturned in labelling Gonzalo, founder of the Communist Party of Peru – Shining Path (PCP-SL), a tyrant. This, when 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, mandating structural adjustment policies that further impoverished the Peruvians.
Gonzalo’s leadership planted the seeds to overthrow this repressive system. He may have gone but his spirit is not dead or buried. It still shimmers across the globe.
After the triumph of Deng Xiaoping, Gonzalo took upon himself the task of continuing with the Maoist protracted people's war concept in Latin America. He is relevant to India, which too is trapped by the yoke of semi-feudalism and imperialism with parliamentary democracy taking a backseat, and many genuine democrats incarcerated within prison walls.
From 1960s, Gonzalo knit components to build the breeding ground to launch the two line struggle within the party, insisting on the need to go ahead with armed struggle, even as chalking down a path to develop political work in the rural areas. He imitated a prolonged struggle against the established Communist Party leadership, alleging deviation.
In an interview in "El Diaro" in1988, Gonzalo encompassed different aspects of Marxism and world revolution, claiming, a new epoch was being written in history. Imitating Che Guevera, he illustrated the spiritual aspect of a Marxist revolutionary and how a new man needed to be created in order to reach the very core of the soul.
Critical of revisionism and defending Mao Zedong for "elevating" Leninism to a higher stage, thus making a universal contribution, he defended Stalin, attacked Gorbachev's perestroika.
Putting forward global perspective of Marxist revolution, Gonzalo analysed the distinguishing characteristics of fascism in Peru and how it had disguised itself. In the sphere of literature, he reflected upon the political lesson of sin, as reflected in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar".
Gonzalo's Shining Path movement sought to follow Che Guevarist's theory, as applied in Cuba and Nicaragua, on Peru. He favoured people's guerrilla army encircling urban areas, virtually besieging the administration. He combined self-defence and aggression to confront the "enemy". 
Ironically, he did this this in a country, which is principally urban. He showed his acumen penetrating the slum areas of Lima. Mass fronts of women, youth, intellectuals and peasants were set up, building link with his party link.
According to a blog in "Kites", which is a journal of communist theory and strategy focused on North America, “During the people’s war, Gonzalo’s leadership revealed potential of urban slums as base areas for revolution and forged strategy and tactics for bringing revolutionary warfare to the bourgeoisie’s centres of power. These innovations to the strategy of protracted people’s war are of tremendous importance to revolutionaries today given the massive growth of slums in Africa, Asia, and Latin America."
It said, “From its initiation in 1980 to 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 harsh repression. Gonzalo’s leadership was pivotal to navigating the twists and turns of the revolution, building the communist vanguard and a revolutionary military under its leadership..."
The blog added, "After he was finally captured on September 12, 1992, Gonzalo stood firm, delivering a defiant speech from a cage before international media in which he insisted that his capture was merely a bend in the road and that the revolution could still prevail.”
Joshua Moufawad Paul, Canadian academic and writer, said, “The PCP-SP came so close to toppling the fascist regime in Peru due to the fact that it appealed not only to the most marginalized sectors of Peruvian society -- women, indigenous people, the peasantry, with its land reforms, attempts at gender equality, etc -- but in general broad sectors of the masses. The PCP had even infiltrated the armed forces."
Gonzalo's concepts of 'militarization of the party' sought to fuse the party and the military organization, deploying the people's guerrilla army to undertake mass work in the cities. Excesses were committed by the guerrilla army, and romanticism became its prominent feature. Gonzalo was unable to curb his personality cult from flowering, which is similar to the eulogisation of Stalin or Mao.
There have been protests condemning the death of Gonzalo in Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia or even regions of America. However, there exists a predominant trend that eulogises 'Gonzalo thought’ and promotes him as the Greatest Marxist or a Fourth Sword of Marxism. 
Some adherents of 'Gonzalo thought' view him as the sixth leading communist theorist, continuing the legacies of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. Prof Joma Sison, Filipino writer and activist who founded the Communist Party of the Philippines, wrote, terming ‘Gonzalo Thought’ as the Marxism of the modern era and take Peruvian path as a model even for a first world country was an aberrations. 
Meanwhile, pro-Gonzoloite red guard groups in America and Canada continue their activities, upholding the his Mao-inspired people's war views.
---
*Freelance journalist based in Mumbai

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