On 13 September the ex-Maoist guerrilla leader Abimael Guzman died in a prison in Peru where he had been for nearly thirty years. He has been portrayed by the Peruvian and world capitalist press as one of the most criminal and brutal ‘Marxist’ leaders in the world, blamed for the death of more than 80,000 people and the destruction of private and government property
He was the founder of ‘Gonzalo thought’ (like Mao Tse Tung thought) and he created his own cult of personality, seeing himself as one of the ‘four swords’ of Marxism, after Marx, Lenin and Mao. He travelled to China in 1966 and 1967 during the Cultural Revolution and was part of the split of the Communist Party of Peru (Red Flag). Mao’s Little Red Book became his Bible. When he returned to Peru, he formed a guerrilla group along called Shining Path with some of his professors and young students who came from peasant families,
The name Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) was taken from José Carlos Mariategui, a Peruvian Marxist-Leninist who had founded Peru’s first Communist Party in 1928 and who advocated a peasant/indigenous peoples ‘socialism’. His maxim was: ‘El Marxismo-Leninismo abrirá el sendero luminoso hacia la revolución’ (‘Marxism-Leninism will open the shining path to revolution’). Many political movements were inspired by his writings including the Tupamaros in Uruguay and Evo Morales’ indigenous people's movement in Bolivia. Three ex-leaders of these guerrilla movements became presidents in Latin America and allies of the ruling class and the corporations.
Was Guzman really a communist, or a Marxist? Were Mao and Lenin genuine Marxist and socialists? Are Leninism and Maoism socialist/communist currents? Can the crimes that were committed by him be blamed on Marxism and Socialism?
The Socialist Party and the World Socialist Movement have indicated for decades that neither Leninism, Stalinism or Maoism have ever been Marxist or socialist conceptions; that, instead, they were representative of an economic current named by Engels as State Capitalism; that the concept of a violent uprising was a tactic created by Lenin and the Bolsheviks to overthrow the government of Russia; and that idea was borrowed from the Blanquists. It was not a Marxist conception. Shining Path’s first action was to attack a polling station and burn it down, rejecting Marx political view of the political education of the working class, and the revolutionary use of the ballot and universal suffrage by the working class.
In Latin America, Maoism was a complete failure from the first time that it was adopted by several organizations that had abandoned Castroism. It sacrificed the lives of many young people who became members of the urban guerrillas and infiltrated themselves in the workers’ unions or went to the mountains or jungles of several countries in Latin America and were assassinated by the police or the armed forces, as were many peasants and members of the workers’ unions, university teachers, and young professionals.
Maoism’s failure in Latin America is a clear indication that a minority group of individuals will not liberate the working class and humanity. It proves that Marx was correct when he wrote that only the working class can liberate itself. Maoism was a case of what Engels criticised as a conscious minority acting in the name of an unconscious majority. But socialism cannot be established without a class conscious working class
Mao Tse Tung thought attracted many young peoples in different countries in Latin America including the Caribbean islands as an ideological replacement for Castroism, but in essence, it was the same adventurist movement advocated by Regis Debray who fought in Bolivia with Che Guevara. The main attraction was the concept of ‘anti-revisionism’ started by China and Albania against the Khruschevites. It claimed to be a restoration of true socialism and true Marxism, but it was only a variety of Leninism and Stalinism. Maoism was Chinese nationalism like Castroism was Latin American nationalism.
Latin American Maoism was basically a nationalist/patriotic movement, and all the so-called Communist parties that were created were nationalists’ parties of the countries where they were formed. None of them had a socialist programme; their programme was for reforms, statism and the nationalization of natural resources.
It was mainly a movement among young people and university students. It never had any incidence within the industrial working class. Although many Marxist-Leninist parties sent their best cadres to work with the peasants, it never became a peasants’ movement; it was some capitalist governments that provided the peasants with what they wanted – land reform, agricultural equipment and supplies. They confronted a force that was stronger than them, the forces of the capitalist state, and suffered the consequences.
When China openly opted for state-run capitalism and collaboration with the Western powers and Western corporations all these organizations collapsed, and they disbanded themselves. Some of their leaders were killed or deported; others later became government ministers. The USA wanted them to leave and provided visas for them to emigrate, but they were no threat to capital and to the capitalist society; they were anti-imperialists, but they were not anti-capitalists.
The new government of Peru did not want to bury Abimael Guzman’s body, claiming, like any other capitalist country, so-called national security. So his body was cremated and the ashes scattered at a secret location. Maoism and the Shining Path are no longer popular within any section of Peruvian society or a threat to security. In the beginning, they had some support within the peasant class, but then the peasants were caught in the cross-fire between the Maoist guerrilla fighters and the government’s armed forces and many peasants were killed. Maoism is a dead movement in Peru today, and most of the members of Guzman’s group became part of some gang and of the drug traffic.
Many of the deaths blamed on Shining Path and Guzman were not committed by them. The police, the paramilitary and the armed forces should be blamed for most of the killings, like most of the killings committed in Colombia in the fight with the Maoist/Castroist guerrillas known as the FARC. Another group is not a socialist or Marxist either, as the media has propagated. Being related and armed by Cuba does not turn a group into a socialist one. Nor were the Tupamaros in Uruguay socialist or Marxist movement (one of their ex-leaders later became president) but were like a Robin Hood movement of taking money from the rich to give it to the poor
Maoism in Latin America showed its terrorist and anti-working-class nature, and it is a total negation of the revolutionary nature of Marxism and socialism It is the capitalist press and the anti-communists who labelled Guzman and those like him ‘Marxist’, just as they have the Colombian FARC.
Maoism could not have been applied in large capitalist developed countries like the USA, Britain, and Germany. It was basically the theory for a peasants’ movement, similar to the Russian populists (Narodniks) who, too, did not have any incidence within the peasants and ended up using terrorist tactics. It could only be applied in Third World countries, but despite that, it was a complete failure in all the economically backward countries where it tried to take control of the nation and the state apparatus. It turned out to be not at all a shining path