Revolutionary Worker #893, February 9, 1997
The ruling class in Peru, their U.S. backers, and the media they control all attack the Communist Party of Peru as a "terrorist" organization and accuse the Maoist revolutionaries of all kinds of crimes. But at the same time, they ignore, distort or outright lie about the PCP's actual strategy and program. The hatred of the oppressors for the PCP runs deep--a hatred based on the reality that the People's War in Peru is a just struggle of the oppressed, which aims to overthrow the reactionary state power and break with the domination of imperialism.
The MRTA, the focus of the current bourgeois media attention on Peru, has a different strategy and goal than the PCP. The MRTA emerged out of the legal "left," seeking to present an alternative to purely parliamentary forms of struggle and also to the People's War led by the PCP. They initiated their armed struggle in 1984 in opposition to the People's War, which had begun four years earlier and was facing the government's genocidal attacks. Their strategy is similar to that carried out by the revisionists in El Salvador and Nicaragua--of using the armed struggle to pressure and seek an agreement with the ruling classes, without fundamentally uprooting the system of oppression and exploitation. The MRTA does not carry out the Maoist line of waging people's war, building base areas in the countryside and aiming at a complete break with imperialism and domestic reaction. Instead, it has tended to focus on "spectacular actions" like the current one, combined with attempts to reach alliances with various ruling class parties.
The current focus on Peru has raised the question: How can the masses in Peru liberate themselves and end the poverty and injustices they suffer? In this article we want to give our readers a basic view of the aims and strategy of the People's War that has been carried out for nearly 17 years by the Communist Party of Peru.
The PCP launched the People's War on May 17, 1980. The PCP is carrying out what the great revolutionary leader Mao Tsetung called the "New Democratic Revolution."
The PCP wrote in 1986: "The Communist Party took up arms to advance the democratic revolution--to overthrow the exploitation and oppression of imperialism (principally Yankee), bureaucrat capitalism and subsistence semifeudalism--in order to seize state power for the proletariat and the people, within the context of the world revolution and in its service." (From "Develop the People's War to Serve the World Revolution." Available from the Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru, and published in A World To Win 1987/8.)
This revolution aims to topple the "three mountains" of oppression weighing on the Peruvian people: Imperialism, especially U.S. imperialism, which dominates Peru, distorts its economy to serve foreign capital, and sucks the lifeblood from the masses. Semi-feudalism in the countryside, which perpetuates a state of backwardness--keeping the majority of peasants landless and brutally oppressed, without any semblance of democratic rights. And bureaucrat capitalism, the main form of capitalism in Peru, which is stunted and subservient to imperialism.
Only nationwide political power through People's War will enable the oppressed people in Peru to get rid of the three mountains and break out of the intolerable situation they now face. Heriberto Ocasio, National Spokesperson for the Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru (CSRP), has explained: "From the beginning of the revolution, the PCP has raised the slogan: `Without state power all is illusion.' They've based themselves on the basic truth that, as Mao Tsetung said: `The central task and highest form of revolution is the seizure of power by means of armed struggle, that is, the settlement of the issue through war.' And that this war must be a war of the masses, a people's war."
After overthrowing the three mountains, the PCP's aim is to establish a People's Republic and to lead the masses toward socialism and, together with the international proletariat, the final goal of communism.
The PCP has led the People's War in the face of an incredibly brutal counter-revolutionary war waged by the Peruvian rulers, who have the backing of U.S. imperialism. What has given the PCP the strength to withstand the enemy's genocidal assaults and persevere in leading the just struggle of the people? The strength comes from the Party's proletarian ideology and outlook, based on Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM).
MLM has enabled PCP members and revolutionary fighters to (as they say) "carry their lives on their fingertips"--ready to give their lives for the cause of advancing the People's War and the world revolution. MLM has enabled the PCP to develop a concrete analysis of the problem and solution in Peruvian society, to rely on the strength of the masses and to forge a military strategy to fight a protracted war against a much bigger and well-armed enemy and advance toward seizing power.
Waging a revolutionary people's war and building a new society to replace the old requires the leadership of a vanguard communist party. As the PCP has put it, "Without a revolutionary party of a new type, Marxist-Leninist-Maoist, there can be no revolution for the proletariat and the people." ("Develop People's War...")
The PCP Programme states that the communist party is "the organized vanguard of the proletariat in Peru, which is part of the international proletariat" and that it aims to "serve the people and the world proletarian revolution." The PCP is a participating party in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM).
The PCP leads the people's army, following Mao's principle: "The Party must command the gun; the gun must never be allowed to command the Party."
The PCP leads the united front of the revolutionary classes in Peru. The heart of the united front is the worker-peasant alliance, and this is the basis to win allies from other class forces in the middle strata--including, in an oppressed country like Peru, even sections of the national bourgeoisie who oppose imperialism. Students, teachers, journalists, intellectuals and others have joined the revolution. Progressive lawyers have defended revolutionaries in the courts.
The PCP says that "revolutionary violence or violent revolution, is the only way to seize state power and transform the world." This understanding is based on one of the key revolutionary principles developed by Mao: The seizure of power through a revolutionary war of the masses is the essential first great leap in revolutionizing society. The imperialists and their frontmen will never peacefully give up power or stop oppressing the people. The masses of people must rise up in arms and defeat the ruling classes in war.
The application of these principles to an oppressed country like Peru means waging protracted people's war. The PCP initiated the armed struggle in the countryside where the reactionary state power is weakest. Protracted people's war is a strategy that enables the revolutionary forces to go from weak to strong by relying on the strengths of the masses, while taking advantage of the weaknesses of the enemy and avoiding a decisive showdown while the enemy's strength is still superior. As Mao summed up, all military logic can be boiled down to the principle `you fight your way, I'll fight my way.' For the proletariat, this means forging military strategy and tactics which can bring into play its particular advantages, most importantly the initiative and enthusiasm of the revolutionary masses.
The Committee of the RIM (CoRIM) has pointed out: "In a fundamental sense, revolutionary warfare led by the proletariat, once embarked upon, must continue until one of the two opposing sides has been defeated. It cannot be turned on and off at will as a mere pressure tactic to achieve concessions from the reactionary state. The means and goals of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist forces are fundamentally different than those of the warfare of other classes, for even when such warfare is opposed to the reactionary state, it does not and cannot aim for the very destruction of that reactionary state and the establishment of the rule of the masses."
The PCP set out on this course in 1980 with an understanding that they were crossing a great divide--going over into warfare which they would not end until the other side is defeated. Since then, they have proceeded through twists and turns, developing plans and setting objectives based on the concrete situation.
In "Develop People's War..." the PCP wrote: "In short, the vortex of the war between the People's Guerrilla Army and the reactionary Armed Forces and police is the question of the new state power, the creation, defense and development of the people's committees, the base areas and the continuing advance in the formation of the New Democratic People's Republic, the new state...."
It is through the base areas that the revolution wrenches new political power out of the grip of the old political power. Through the agrarian revolution carried out in the base areas, the power of the reactionaries is broken--and the land monopolized by the large landowners becomes the land of the peasants.
The revolutionary base areas reflect the united front led by the PCP. They are run by popularly elected People's Committees, composed 1/3 of PCP members (representing the proletariat), 1/3 of poor peasants and 1/3 of middle peasants and other middle class forces.
The base areas are key to the ability to wage a protracted war of the masses. The peasant masses are armed and organized into local militias, and mobilized to help provide the revolutionary army with food, clothing, shelter, reconnaissance on the enemy, and a place to rest. The revolutionary army itself also engages in production.
The Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) has pointed out: "Mao established that the policy of winning base areas and systematically establishing political power was key to unleashing the masses and developing the armed struggle of the people and the wavelike expansion of their political power."
By the early 1990s many Base Areas and hundreds of People's Committees had been established throughout the countryside. The PCP's armed forces were able to strike at the old order from one end of Peru to the other. And the PCP was accelerating work in the cities in preparation for the time when the battle for the nationwide seizure of power would come more immediately into sight.
But proletarian revolutions never march straight to victory. Worried that the revolution could actually win, the Peruvian regime and the U.S. stepped up their counter-revolution, guided by the strategy of low-intensity warfare. In April 1992, Fujimori carried out a military coup and unleashed a reign of terror. The U.S.-directed counterinsurgency operations led to the September 12, 1992 capture of PCP Chairman Gonzalo and other top leaders. This was a big blow to the revolution, a "bend in the road" toward the seizure of power.
In 1993 a line emerged within the PCP calling for negotiating an end to the People's War--which Fujimori attributed to Chairman Gonzalo, who remains isolated in extreme conditions of confinement at the hands of the reactionary regime. The Central Committee of the PCP has denounced this line. They have pointed out it is a fundamental departure from the line and programme forged by the PCP through its whole history, including the leading contribution of Chairman Gonzalo. The CC has called on party members to re-affirm the Party's basis of unity and pay attention to this two-line struggle. And it has continued to lead the masses in carrying forward the People's War.
The CoRIM declared in its March 1995 statement: "The CoRIM salutes the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Peru for its firm, vigorous and correct opposition to the right opportunist line, which would bring defeat to the People's War in Peru and a serious setback for the whole international communist movement. The Central Committee has boldly and courageously carried forward the People's War amidst the difficult conditions created by the capture of Chairman Gonzalo and other blows to the Party. The greatest difficulty facing the Party is the right opportunist line itself and the actions of those who are promoting it.
"It is the internationalist duty of our Movement as a whole, as well as of the Committee as the embryonic political centre of RIM, to contribute all we can to the waging of the two-line struggle against the right opportunist line of negotiations for a peace accord, to assisting the Central Committee of the PCP in carrying out this two-line struggle on the strongest basis and with the most powerful effect, and to helping strengthen the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist leadership and line guiding the People's War in Peru and carrying it forward on that basis, through whatever twists and turns, toward the goal of nationwide political power and the ultimate aim of communism, worldwide."
The CoRIM statement also called for carrying through the battle to gain access to Chairman Gonzalo and stated: "It is important to continue to try to determine Chairman Gonzalo's current views. The key question, however, is the line, not its author."
The RIM has called for an international campaign to "Rally to the Defence of Our Red Flag Flying In Peru" and "to render the greatest support possible to the PCP and the People's War it is continuing to lead." All who support the revolution in Peru, all who support the world revolutionary movement, and all who yearn to break the suffocating bonds of oppression anywhere on the planet, should wholeheartedly and actively take up this call.