Revolutionary Worker #907, May 18, 1997
Seventeen years ago--on May 17, 1980--the guns of liberation rang out in the Andes mountains of Peru as the Communist Party of Peru (PCP, known in the media as the Shining Path) took the first steps in the people's war.
The initiation of the people's war took place at a time when the rulers of Peru, backed by international powers, were staging an election and making phony promises to the people. But these bloodsuckers clearly could not provide any real solution to the poor in Peru. Under their oppressive rule, peasants in the Andes highlands have to live on a meager diet of as little as 400 calories a day--less than what people in this area lived on 500 years ago. The Peruvian government provides plenty of water and power to foreign-owned mining companies who make huge profits out of their operations in this country--while half the people in Lima, the capital city, live in shantytowns without any running water or electricity.
The PCP called on the people to overthrow the old ruling power and fight for a new kind of power--power for the people on the bottom to take control and remake society from top to bottom. The PCP raised the slogans: "Armed Struggle! For a Workers' and Peasants' Government! Down with the New Reactionary Government!" In the village of Chuschi in Ayacucho, PCP fighters seized and burned ballot boxes. In Ayrabamba, the guerrillas called a mass meeting and then led hundreds of poor peasants in burning down the house of a hated landowner and dividing up the crops and livestock. In Lima, guerrillas led an attack on the police station in a poor neighborhood and spread word of the revolution in the center of the city.
The PCP fighters began with only a few armed detachments and simple weapons--revolvers, shotguns and sticks of dynamite hurled with slings that date back to the Inca times. Sometimes they even used fake wooden rifles to fool the enemy. The People's Guerrilla Army--known as the People's Liberation Army today--built up its armed strength by defeating the enemy in battle and seizing their weapons. And from the beginning, the fighters carried out the Maoist principle that "people, not weapons, are decisive in war"--drawing the basic people into the revolutionary army, relying on the masses in the face of the enemy's counterattacks and calling upon the peasants for food and shelter.
The PCP is carrying out a New Democratic Revolution--the road to liberation pioneered by Mao Tsetung for people in oppressed countries. This revolution aims to overthrow the "three mountains"--the U.S. and other big powers who dominate Peru, the semi-feudal landowners and the local bureaucrat-capitalist rulers. This is a war to break the grip of imperialist domination over Peru and open the way for socialism. The PCP is applying the basic military strategy, developed by Mao, for this revolution--protracted people's war. The protracted people's war mobilizes the peasants as the main fighting force, under the leadership of the proletarian party. This war seeks to defeat the enemy bite by bite, surrounding the cities--the center of reactionary power--from the revolutionary base areas in the countryside.
The government at first tried to dismiss the PCP as a small band of outlaws that could be easily defeated. But when it became clear that the people's war was gaining strength and winning support, the government sent in the Army and carried out horrible massacres in the villages of the Andean highlands. In the years 1983-4, the government forces murdered more than 8,700 Peruvians, mainly poor peasants. They were able to destroy some revolutionary base areas and people's committees built by the PCP.
But the PCP revolutionaries--armed with Marxism-Leninism-Maoism--persevered in the people's war and came through this difficult period even more steeled. The people's war began spreading to many different areas of Peru.
By the early 1990s, the Peruvian reactionaries and their U.S. backers spoke openly of their fears that the people's war might win victory. The U.S. stepped up intervention in Peru--sending in some Green Berets and setting up a counterinsurgency base in the Upper Huallaga Valley. In April 1992, Fujimori and his generals carried out a coup that further concentrated reactionary state power in the hands of the president and the military.
The Fujimori regime cranked up repression and exploitation of the masses. And it launched concentrated attacks on the people's war and the PCP. The CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies directed the massive manhunt by the Peruvian political police for PCP Chairman Gonzalo, which led to his capture in September 1992. Other important leaders of the PCP have also been captured and/or killed by the regime in the past several years--including in the 1992 massacre of revolutionary prisoners at Canto Grande Prison.
The U.S. has continued to provide backing for the Fujimori regime's vicious counter-revolutionary war. Meanwhile, in the context of the serious "bend in the road" in the revolution, a line emerged within the PCP, calling for negotiations and abandoning the people's war. The PCP Central Committee rejected this call and is continuing to lead the people's war through all the twists and turns.
The determined and courageous comrades in Peru are our sisters and brothers--their fight is our fight. The people's war in Peru has been, and continues to be, a front line battle of the world proletarian revolution.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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