re-peru thread

Michael Luftmensch MLuftmensch at
Thu Feb 29 22:11:20 MST 1996

re-peru thread

Chris, thank you for your reasoned response. In using the term "neutrality" I
was not referring to the control of a given territory but to the control of a
given population. I have read that Ayacucho, the PCP's Andean stronghold, has
emptied out over the past decade. Aprox. 70 per cent of the population has
fled the war for the cities on the coast. So to some extent, the water in
which the fish swim has in fact dried up. While it has become apparent to me
that the army's policy of establishing armed bands is responsible for the
escalation of violence in the countryside, the PCP response seems to me to be
one that does not allow for the counter-efficacy of armed struggle.

I quoted at length from the Americas Watch report about the MRTA and the
Ashaninka in order to show a pattern common to a lot of the violence in rural
Peru - as presented in Peru Under Fire. The area in question, the coca-rich
Huallaga Valley, is the most economically dynamic  in the country. Unsavory
alliances seem to go with the territory. Could it be otherwise?

When I wrote about an incident being "characteristic" I was not referring to
the PCP per se, but to the reports of PCP-linked atrocities in the Americas
Watch report. There is a great difference, and I am sorry that I didn't make
that clearer. (By "en masse," I meant, in a body. A dozen peasants killed en
masse means a dozen peasants killed at once. I don't think this is

That aside, I found most of your comments to be on the mark. The situation is
murky, and the authorities have considerable reason to make it even more so.
However, I find it hard to judge the degree of popular support for the PCP in
Peru. The fact that the organization relies on "armed strikes" in the cities
makes me pause.

Adolfo Oleachea has branded me a "Groucho Marxist" - an appellation I am
willing to own up to. We Grouchoists tend to empathize with the plight of the
defenceless. Likewise, we harbour deep suspicions about those who speak in
the name of the people, particularly when war is involved.

Groucho Marx said: I've worked myself up into a state of extreme poverty. In
regard to Peru, Grouchoists tend to see the Conquest as bringing the
country's feudal relations to an end by binding it to the emerging world
market. What followed was the underdevelopment of Peru: a state of extreme

While the PCP is fighting against the ravages of underdevelopment in Peru,
their remedy seems to belong to another age. Grouchoists see Marxism-Leninism
as an ideology of national development, let's call it the socialist
transition to capitalism. Developmentalism has proven to be an illusory
option. Long before the Soviet Union collapsed, socialist governments in
Eastern Europe and military juntas in South America found themselves adopting
the same export-orientations.

The coca policy of the PCP in the Haullaga Valley seems to be yet one more
example of this.

While appreciating Marx's critique of political economy, much of which is
just as valid today as it was a century ago, I find it unreasonable to ignore
the process of militarization that has taken place over the past hundred
years. In Marx's time, it seemed reasonable to envision a revolutionary
scenario in which arms would be distributed to the masses. But wars are no
longer fought with bayonets and muskets.

Waging a people's war in a country like China, which in Mao's time was over
80 per cent rural, is a very different proposition from doing so in
contemporary Peru, which is over 75 per cent urban. Although it may be
"philistine and post-modernist" to say so, the terrain of a city is very
different from that of a rural area.

Likewise, the response that can be anticipated by a modern army to armed
insurrection in a city - witness Chechnia - has far reaching implications.
When Adolfo Oleachea belittles the threat of aerial bombardment - "a fat lot
of good it did them in Vietnam" - we Grouchoists can't help thinking about
the millions killed and wounded. (To say nothing, for the moment, of the
country's policy in the nineties vis a vis US imperialism.)

At the same time, we have seen unarmed masses face down a modern army in more
than one city over the past two decades. I am not trying to establish a
golden rule. The violence of everyday life in Peru is unbearable. That is
very clear to me. But what alternative does the PCP offer?

I was particularly interested in your question of how, if the PCP came to
power, it would defend Peru from the pressure of international finance
capital, and ensure that there is no famine in Peru.

I understand, from Adolfo's response, and from the PCP program, that the PCP
has no answer to this question.

The only response I can imagine, other than a Cambodia-like scenario, is one
that involves the entire region. But thus far, the PCP does not seem capable
of building bridges in Peru, let alone to Latin America. This stands in sharp
contrast to the Zappatistas and I think there's a salutary lesson to be drawn
from this. I don't think it is about the legitimacy of armed struggle - a
question which must be answered in a concrete context - but rather, about
popular democratic mobilization as opposed to authoritarian organization.

Such, I confess, are my Grouchoist  sympathies. My Harpoesque tendencies seem
to just reinforce these feelings.


p.s. - re-shiny shit: there's a S. American saying to the effect that if shit
ever acquires any value in this world, the poor will be born without

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