- Arguably the most influential group in the history of Peruvian Marxism is Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). A nominally Maoist collection of guerrilla fighters, the organization sought, largely through violent means, to bring about the destruction of Peruvian state institutions and their replacement with a peasant communist revolutionary regime. Taking their name from a slogan of the organization they defected from, the Peruvian Communist Party (“follow the shining path of [José Carlos] Mariategui”), the group was formed in the late 1960s by a committed Maoist, Abimael Guzmán, later referred to as “Presidente Gonzalo.” It was not until 1980 that they took up their armed struggle for power, a decision that led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Peruvians, including scores of fellow Marxists. By the middle of the 1980s, membership of Sendero Luminoso had reached its 10,000-plus peak, and the group controlled large stretches of rural territory. Here they were able to implement their own version of communism, banning capitalist ventures, enforcing prohibition, redistributing land, setting production targets and organizing an educational system. However, their reactionary policy of indiscriminate and callous violence toward their own people proved to be their downfall, as the peasantry largely rejected their rule, and the Peruvian government more tellingly enforced a phase of Martial Law that saw the 1992 arrest of the influential Guzmán and other Sendero Luminoso commanders.The group subsequently dwindled in size, and exists today as a splinter faction, capable only of sporadic action and committed more to wrestling control of Peru’s coca forests than pursuing their own vision of Marxism. Guzmán, a former university professor and the chief ideologue behind Sendero Luminoso, grandiosely declared his group’s “Marxism–Leninism–Maoism and Gonzalo Thought” as the “new, third and higher stage of Marxism.” In reality, the movement’s contribution to Marxist thought amounted to little, as Guzmán championed revolutionary violence, emphasized the centrality of the class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat, and railed against revisionism in a manner witnessed on countless occasions since Vladimir Ilich Lenin came to prominence. The only difference was that all of this was meted out alongside a reactionary approach to violence that chimed more with the Marxism of Josef Stalin.Elsewhere in Peru, a number of parties have at various times claimed to be the chief proponents of communistic ideas. The group Sendero Luminoso derived from the Peruvian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Peruano-unidad—PCP) claim to be the oldest Marxist party in the country, while the Communist Party of Peru–Red Fatherland (Partido Comunista del Peru–Patria Roja—PCP-PR) has also figured prominently. Additionally, the Unified Mariateguista Party (Partido Unificado Mariateguista—PUM) has presented itself as a vanguard revolutionary party which advocates a brand of market socialism similar to that practiced by the Chinese Communist Party as of 1978. In the 1980s the PUM joined other Marxist groups in the broad United Left (Izquierda Unidad—IU) coalition that unsuccessfully contested Peruvian general elections. However, the dominant left-wing organization in the country today is the Peruvian Communist Party–Red Flag (Partido Comunista Peruano–Bandero Roja—PCP-BR), a Maoist group containing former members of Sendero Luminoso.
Historical dictionary of Marxism. David Walker and Daniel Gray . 2014.
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