'armed strikes' and workers' democracy : notes of a liquidator

Jj Plant jplant at cix.compulink.co.uk
Tue Oct 1 11:15:00 MDT 1996

In-Reply-To: <199609300758.IAA04781 at easynet.co.uk>
Adolfo takes sharply worded exception to my objections to the 'armed
strike' policy, and proposes I take steps to ameliorate my ignorance.

I post below the text of a letter we published in Revolutionary
History Vol 5 No 1, Autumn 1993. The facts and analysis have been in
the public domain and on the public record in english for 3 years and
in spanish for longer. Some similar material was published by the
Spartacists about the same time. This has also gone unchallenged. It
addresses the 'armed strike' question from the point of view of trade
unionists in the factories, somewhat different from the material
Adolfo has been posting recently (interesting though that is). This
post is for information, I do not support every detail of the
descriptions of decisions by Trotskyist groups in it. Nevertheless,
it provides a view from the workplace, which has not been previously
available, and which, in my view, is central to an analysis of the
situation in Peru.

Adolfo regards discussing this major difference over revolutionary
strategy as 'obnoxious' and an example of 'back seat driving'. I have
been called worse in recent months on this list. But let's avoid the
smokescreen of rude language Adolfo. Behind all your huffing and
puffing and waving of iron brooms, you have not answered me on
whether Lenin called for the removal of Stalin from the General

(In a few places accents have not been properly transcribed because
my editor will throw them out when emailing.)



Dear Comrades,

Over the last decade 'democratic' Peru has had the worst record in
the world for political disappearances, with around 30,000 people
being assassinated in the last decade. Revolutionaries in Peru are
under fire not merely from the police, military and paramilitary
forces, but from the Stalinist guerrillas of Sendero Luminoso. One
victim of the Sendero's terror campaign is Roberto Chiara, a
longstanding Trotskyist and union leader. Although he was killed
three years ago, in April 1990, it seems that the news of his
assassination did not reach Britain at the time.

Born in 1950, Chiara started work at the age of 17, and joined the
Revolutionary Left Front (FIR) in 1969, just after the start of 12
years of 'left' bonapartist dictatorship in Peru, and the recognition
of the FIR as the Peruvian section of the United Secretariat of the
Fourth International. He became the Secretary of the union at the big
Diamante shoe factory, which was noted for its militant workforce. He
led several indefinite all-out strikes and workers' occupations of
the plant, and fought on street barricades. Sacked several times, his
workmates managed to get him reinstated.

In the late 1970s Chiara helped form the Revolutionary Workers Party
(PRT), and fought against Hugo Blanco and Nicolas Luccar who, with
the support of USFI leaders, liquidated the PRT into a reformist
party (the PUM) in the mid 1980s. He then helped form the Comite de
Unification Socialist a (CUS), although he was not very active within
it, as he concentrated upon trade union activity in the Diamante

In the late 1980s the Sendero Luminoso started to develop factory
work. Their lawyers would offer legal advice to workers, and their
armed apparatus would terrorise both the bosses and other political
tendencies. As Chiara was trained in the USFI during its guerrillaist
period, and as the CUS considered the Sendero Luminoso was a
revolutionary party, at first he collaborated with its activists, and
even supported their 'armed strikes', which were not decided by the
workers but were imposed by the guerrillas. However, as a Trotskyist
who supported workers' democracy and transitional demands, he started
openly to criticise the Sendero Luminoso, as it tried to turn the
union at the Diamante works into a body completely subordinated to
it. The Sendero Luminoso is a Stalinist, heavily militarised,
petit-bourgeois and lumpen sect. It may fight imperialism, but it
also represents a counter-revolutionary force against the working
class. It opposes workers' councils, openly advocates the smashing of
trade unions, assassinates working class and community activists
whether reformist or revolutionary, disrupts the movement of the
oppressed, and provokes state repression. Revolutionaries should
defend Sendero militants against state repressions, but be prepared
to defend workers' organisations from them, militarily if necessary.

The Sendero Luminoso started a slander campaign against Chiara,
accusing him of making a corrupt deal with the management. Its
activists would not allow the workers to discuss the matter, as they
knew it be rejected as a lie. One evening in April 1990, Chiara was
ambushed not 100 metres from the Diamante works and was stabbed and
shot. He left a widow and several children.

We worked with comrade Chiara for many years, and after his death
several comrades on the left wing of the CUS left this disintegrating
organisation, and have become close to Poder Obrero. Comrade Chiara
made serious mistakes, but he was one of the few union activists from
the 1970s who did not capitulate to opportunism or the bourgeoisie.
He was an honest fighter. The best homage to him is to build a
revolutionary party that can defeat Stalinism and lead a Socialist


Anibal Robles

jplant at cix.compulink.co.uk

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