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Sendero Luminoso Essay

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One of the first, primitive communist societies was the Incan empire. Under strong dictatorial rule and an organized system, the Incas survived centuries in the harsh Andean climate. When faced with Spanish dominance in political and social areas in the 1780’s, the people revolted under Tupac Amaru II. The fight against the Spanish continued through the 1800’s with major battles in Ayacucho, a place later to be used by the Shining Path, or Sendero Luminoso’s leader Abimael Guzman, to spawn the new revolution.

The fight for independence continued with Josi?? Carlos Mariategui, who founded the Peruvian Communist Party (PCP) in the 1920’s. Through the 1960’s, peasants formed unions and separate communities from the haciendas of the Catholic Church, and seized land from them (Strong 46-50). Yet, these mini revolts did not survive for long, due to the lack of the peasant’s organization and commitment. They did not feel connected to their guerrilla leaders. Guzmi?? n observed and learned from Ayacucho. Ayacucho was a city with three-fourths agrarian laborers.

Its high number of indigent people and uneducated Indians were easy converts to the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideas of Guzmi?? n. When the University of San Cristi?? bal de Humanga reopened in 1959, Guzmi?? n became a professor of the course ciclo basico, which taught the youth scientific concept of society, turning the students away from the Catholic Church (Strong 13). Guzmi?? n was knowledgeable on all aspects of communism. His firm education as a youth helped foster this. Guzmi?? n was born in 1934 to a poor single mother in Southern Peru.

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He lived with her until his teens. Then he went to live with his father who sent him to a Catholic high school and afterwards to the University of San Agustin to study Philosophy and Law. He was known as “gifted and intellectually passionate. ” (Strong 76). After graduation, in 1962, he was appointed as a philosophy professor at the National University of San Cristobal de Huamanga in Ayacucho. In the early 1950’s, Gonzalo joined the youth branch of the PCP. When Gonzalo arrived in Ayacucho, the PCP put him in charge of the youth work.

Guzmi??n trained students in his class to become teachers of his words, soon to be the grass roots of his organization. After the 1969 coup d’i?? tat under Juan Valesco, the government placed restrictions on education by limiting university enrollment and the information that can be taught. Since education is seen as the backbone of the children’s future, these restrictions were taken as a threat to society by the commoners (McClintock 67). Peasants rioted in Ayacucho and Huanta. Guzmi?? n used this unrest to form a separate party from the Poor Peasants Movement. “The Communist Party of Peru by the Shining Path of Josi??

Carlos Mariategui… and Marxism, Leninism, Maoism and the Thoughts of Chairman Gonzalo” became the full name of Sendero Luminoso. With a new party, Guzmi?? n adopted a new name of Gonzalo, his nom du guerre, which means ‘strife’ in German. Gonzalo’s new Shining Path were predominantly young, Quecha-speaking mestizos who have been oppressed their whole lives. They are uneducated, and predominantly pagan in faith (McClintock 63). Men and women both have involvement; about 18% of the Senderistas were women, heavily due to the importance of the female teacher, and Guzmi??n’s wife, Augusta (McClintock 272).

Women played an important part in the revolution. In 1964, a handful of female workers and university students (mostly from peasant origins) set up, under the leadership of the Communist Party of Peru, the women’s section of the Students’ Revolutionary Front (Stern 178). Most of them were from Ayacucho. Their stated goal was to “retake Mariategui’s road”, which was to make the women’s contribution to the revolution. Four years later, in l968, the women’s movement of Ayacucho made a public declaration of their principles and a plan of action.

They upheld Lenin’s thesis dealing with women’s participation in the revolution, stating, “the success of the revolution depends on the degree of women’s involvement. ” (Strong 255). In 1973, during the Velasco fascist dictatorship, the Popular Women’s Movement (the MFP) was founded. In 1978, the MFP’s roots had spread widely throughout the countryside and in townships. In 1979, as preparations for fighting got under way, the MFP’s standpoint became more solid, becoming more closely related to Gonzalo Thought, which is an application of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as the universal truth of the Peruvian revolution.

It is because of this that Gonzalo Thought is individual to the Communist Party of Peru and the revolution it leads. (Strong 259). The women also fought alongside the men during uprisings; they were not just used to spread information or aid the injured. They were trained with the men in guerrilla warfare, and educated in universities. In an attempt to educate his forces, Gonzalo filled Ayacucho with professors at the university, who developed into the core philosophers of the Shining Path (Strong 50-62). Peasants were educated in politics, languages and other courses that were heavily influenced by Sendero thought (Strong 63).

The education of the people began the long process of the evolution of the Shining Path. The PCP, as it is today, went under numerous reforms during the 1960’s and 1970’s. In the early 1960’s, Gonzalo’s group in the Ayacucho region began to florish and spread influence to neighboring peasant towns (Strong 65). Over the course of the 1960’s, the PCP expelled supporters of revisionism, who wanted to develop the party into a more passive and democratic style, and the Sendero became the most pro-Chinese party in South America (Palmer 63-4).

In February of 1970, a further split took place between the pro Soviet communists and the followers of Gonzalo thought, and Guzmi?? n’s group assumed the leadership of the Communist Party of Peru. A process of incorporating Maoist principles and many of the lessons of the Cultural Revolution, took place for the next several years. From 1972 to 75, the PCP grew and solidified. In 1974, Gonzalo took the Sendero underground as they prepared for revolutionary warfare. With a new base in Lima, the influence of the Sendero had spread to many state universities.

(Ellenbogen 101-3). Decisions became standardized from the top, and the choice to begin the war was made in 1979, any who rejected the idea were expelled from the party as revisionists (Strong 47,52). By 1976, “the Communist Party of Peru was reconstructed and became a party of a new type, Marxist-Leninist-Maoist. ” (Palmer 79). In the same year, the PCP sent many cadres to the countryside to encourage and expand political work, in preparation for the planned insurgency that was to ultimately overthrow the government, and establish communism.

In the short run, the rebellions were aimed to take control of cities and convert more people to the revolution. On May 17, 1980, the people’s war was launched. The day before democratic elections, the violence commenced, when five young, hooded men burned the registry book and ballot boxes of the registrar, after tying the register up and torturing him. This was to be the first free election after twelve years of military rule (Strong 70). Beginning with small guerrilla units, but with Maoist strategy and tactics, the war began. Tactics typical of the Shining Path was an encircling of a major city, which many times was the capital, Lima.

The objective was to besiege the city of its supplies and block the political action until the government was ready to collapse (McClintock 65). Violence was a major part of the tactics and ideology of the Shining Path. Men were ordered to kill, many times resorting to efforts as simple as crushing a skull with a large rock (Strong 78). Bravery was rewarded, encouraging the Senderistas to risk their lives for the revolution, singing, “Glory to the fallen heroes, long live the revolution! Blood does not drown the revolution, but irrigates it! ” (McClintock 68).

Men and women dedicated their lives wholeheartedly to the revolution. In 1982, the Peruvian army intervened directly to counter the insurgency. Before this, the police had been conducting the war. The PCP responded with an army of its own: the People’s Guerrilla Army. Beginning in the strategic stage of the defensive, the People’s Army, step-by-step increased its range of influence. The war began in the Andean states of Ayacucho, Huancavelica and Apurimac; which was where Guzmi?? n initially began his work (McClintock 124). In 1980, 219 attacks were carried out.

By mid 1986, a total of more than 30,000 attacks on the people had occurred. Since then, the war has touched every state and region of Peru. In the 1990’s, more and more battles have been fought in the three regions of Peru: the coast, the sierra and the jungle, which is typical of guerrilla warfare tactics. Lima and its surroundings was a special target of the guerillas, because of its status of capital city. The guerrilla fighters were trained in secret, mostly in the jungle areas of Peru, secluded from the population. Many weapons were attained from the United States after the cold war era.

With limited technology much similar to the Zapatistas of Mexico, the Sendero’s had to make due with communication devices no more advanced than a HAM radio (Strong 147). The Sendero had about 47% of the public support in Peru during the year 1989, predominantly from the rural, agriculture-based southern highland peasants (McClintock 86). The Path’s tactics for expansion began in the rural areas around Ayacucho, then in the late 1980’s expanded to the Huallaga valley, then to Junin. Spreading the influence of the party meant spreading the doctrine of the party (McClintock 87).

The basic principles of the PCP doctrine are:  Contradiction, the sole and fundamental law of the incessant transformation of eternal matter;  The masses are the makers of history, and “It is right to rebel;”  Class struggle, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and proletarian internationalism;  The necessity of a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Communist Party which applies with firmness its independence, independent decision, and self reliance; Combat imperialism, revisionism and reaction implacably and relentlessly;  Conquer and defend power through the People’s War;

Militarization of the Party  Two-line struggle as the motive force of the Party’s development;  Constant ideological transformation and always putting politics in command;  Serve the people and the world proletarian revolution; and,  Absolute selflessness and just and correct style of work (Palmer 112-5). These ideas of Gonzalo Thought were the core of the PCP’s doctrine, to be followed to ensure a victory over the ‘Yankee imperialists’ of President Fujimori. The real United States ‘Yankee’ involvement in aiding the Peruvian government stop the Shining Path was not great.

This was due to the fact that Sendero was not a ‘conventional Cold War challenge’ and that new tactics would be needed to piece Peru back together (McClintock 236). Also, Peru is not a geographic strategic point of interest, and there were tense United States-Peru relations. United States citizens did not have an overwhelming interest in Peruvian foreign policy. However, the CIA did give aid to the GEIN, the group that captured Guzmi?? n in 1992, and helped force democratization (McClintock 238). Under President Bush, stopping cocaine traffic was a far greater priority. He proposed a $35.

9 million military aid package for Peru, but was rejected by President Garcia, and finally accepted by Fujimori in1991. Even with this program, the most influential programs in stopping the Sendero were covert operations from the CIA (McClintock 248). Sendero Luminoso’s influence on Peru was significantly lessened when Gonzalo was captured on September 12 of 1992. His death destroyed the mystique and leadership of the Shining Path, much like Mexico’s capture of Subcommandante Marcos. The Shining Path continues. After his capture, Guzmi?? n made his ‘Speech from a Cage’ on September 24th, 1992.

In this, he states, “This is merely a bend in the road. Nothing more! A bend along the road. The road is long and we will travel it to the end. We will reach our goal and we will win! You will see it! ” (Guzmi?? n 1). He states that the Sendero will continue on with its sixtieth military campaign, and continue its fight. But the influence of the Shining Path will never be the same without the strong, mysterious leadership of Abimael Guzmin.

Working Bibliography Primary Source Guzmi n, Abimael. Speech From A Cage. Lima. Internet. 24 Sept. 1992. Secondary SourcesEllenbogen, Gustavo Gorritt. The Shining Path: A History of the Millenarian War in Peru. Charlottesville: UV of NC, 1999. McClintock, Cynthia. Revolutionary Movements in Latin America: El Salvador’s FMLN and Peru’s Shining Path. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1998.

Palmer, David Scott. The Shining Path of Peru. New York: St Martins Press, 1994. Stern, Steven J. Shining Path and Other Paths: War and Society in Peru. New York: Heath, 1993. Strong, Simon. Shining Path: Terror and Revolution in Peru.

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