The death of Jorge Villaran

PO global at
Sun Sep 15 23:57:13 MDT 1996

The death of Jorge Villaran

        Last Sunday 8 Jorge Villaran, the traditional leader of one of the
trotskyists groups in Peru and an executive leader of the Lambert's Fourth
International died. He had a cancer and one day before he died he attended a
meeting of his organization’s leadership. Many people went into his funeral
which was also a militant demonstration.
        In the late 1960s he was one of the leaders of the powerful union of
the  Banco de Credito  (one of the most important banks) and he was one of
the founders of the new CGTP (Confederacion General de Trabajadores  del

For around two decades comrades educated by him led that union on several
occasions and were the "classist" left opposition against the CP in the
Union of Bank Workers (Federacion de Empleados Bancarios).

        He was a member of Vanguardia Revolucionaria, one of the most
important far left organisations in Peru which was founded in 1965 by
Ricardo Napuri and Ricardo Letts with the impossible aim of  fusing the
ideas of Trotsky, Che Guevara, Lin Piao and Mao. In 1971 Villaran, Napuri,
Narrea and Cuentas split from VR and founded the Revolutionary Workers
Marxist Party (POMR). The POMR was very much influenced by Politica Obrera
in Argentina (now the Workers Party) and Guillermo Lora's Bolivian
Revolutionary Workers Party (POR) which played a significant role in the
People's Assembly in 1971.

        The POMR did very important work among the metal and fish-industry
workers in Chimbote, in the copper miners in the south, among metal and bank
workers in Lima and in many other places. The POMR characterised the Velasco
(1968-75) regime as a bonapartist nationalist dictatorship. They were for
the defence of every measure against imperialism while at the same time
attacking the military junta. The POMR played a very important role in the
creation of the Comite de Coordinacion y Unidad Sindical Clasista (CCUSC).
The CCUSC was founded by all the left parties which were in opposition to
the junta and to its CGTP/CP capitulation. Nevertheless the Maoist party
Patria Roja (Red Fatherland) transformed this united front into a sectarian
party front.

        The POMR also played a very important role in the fish-industry
workers strike in 1976 and in the organisation of the 24 hour total general
strike on 19 July 1977. This was the first general strike in decades, and
pressured the military junta to convene a constituent assembly. The POMR led
one of the national unions which convened the 19 July 77 strike: the FETCOS
(insurance workers union). Around the time of that strike Villaran and
Napuri expelled Wienner who led that union and a faction inside the party.

        This was the second big crisis in the POR. The first occurred in
1972 when a group of young followers of Gerry Healy's International
Committee decided to attack Lora as a traitor for his policy during the
Bolivian People's Assembly and denounced Velasco as a fascist dictator who
had to be replaced by a CP "socialist government" through a process that
needed immediate general elections. In 1976-77 the POMR debated in depth the
question of  how to implement an anti-imperialist unity government. One wing
was in favour of working in alliance with a section of the new junta's
cabinet. The other wing was in favour of dealing with nationalist and
Stalinist forces outside the cabinet. Both sides were incorrect. The only
government which Marxists fight for is a workers and peasant one based in
toilers' councils. A common government with the nationalists, with pure
anti-imperialist democratic goals is inevitably a popular front.

        In late 1977 the POMR, the morenoite PST and the lawyer Genaro
Ledesma created the Workers, Peasant, Student and Popular Front (FOCEP)
which was a (confused) independent socialist workers front. In mid-1978,
after a very militant 48 hours general strike, Peru had its first elections
in 10 years. Surprisingly the "trotskyite" FOCEP got 12% of the votes. This
was the first and only time in all the western hemisphere that a so-called
trotskyist- led front obtained more than 10% of the votes. Hugo Blanco
became the most important electoral figure from the left and the opposition.
Immediately after the elections the FOCEP became the fast growing force in
Peru and the POMR was  its main and most organised party. At that time the
POMR was the only "trotskyist" party in the hemisphere that had 3% of the
parliament. The possibilities were great for the building of a mass
revolutionary party.

        Nevertheless, Villaran's POMR was not prepared to undertake that
task. The POMR constantly shifted between sectarianism, workerism and
popular-frontism. In 1973 the POMR decided to "proletarianise", ie to try to
get rid of every non-wage worker. It was decide that the POMR was a party
only for proletarians. Villaran left his job and at great sacrifice to
himself became a very dedicated party full-timer. Only later did the POMR
come to understand the necessity of opening the party to other layers and to
work in other social sectors.

        The first thing that the POMR did in the constituent assembly was to
draft a "red motion" which demanded that the bourgeois parliament, despite
its pro-junta and right-wing majority, should take power and undertake the
revolutionary tasks. The POMR and the FOCEP adopted a parliamentary
cretinism which would end in the most terrible capitulation to imperialism
by the rest of the left. This action was the last straw that caused an
international split with Lora and Altamira and a national split with Narrea
and Alternativa Obrera, a group in which there were a few of the founders of
the group that in 1987 would become Poder Obrero.

        In 1979, after failing in its attempt to transform the constituent
assembly into a soviet, the POMR decided to create its own "supreme soviet"
with their members, supporters and friends. The POMR promoted the creation
of a People's Assembly without the participation of the biggest trade union
forces (like the CGTP).

        In 1979 the POMR and the rest of the no-CP left created the ARI
(Alliance of the Revolutionary Left, which means "Yes" in Quechua). The ARI
adopted a programme in favour of the expropriation of  imperialism and big
capitalism, for workers control and militias. Despite its confusions, it was
a very radical and anti-imperialist MASS force which had between 20%-30% in
the opinion polls (its separate members obtained more than 1/5 of the votes
in the 1978 elections). The ARI had the opportunity to contest the first
place. Of course, the idea was not that revolutionaries could take power
through that elections but that they can use that platform to organise the
workers for the revolution.

        Nevertheless, in 1980 few months after the general elections, the
ARI exploded. The pro-China parties were against any front led by
"trotskyists" and, Moreno and Lambert, who were the main international
leaders of the two biggest FOCEP parties, were trying to unite and they
thought that if they could monopolise the electoral figure of  Blanco they
could obtain a lot of votes and more Members of the Parliament.

Lambert pressed the POMR to provoke an split. The POMR and the Morenoite PST
said that the ARI was a popular front because, despite considering its main
figure and leader as a "Trotskyist", it included a supposedly strong
bourgeois component, which was a tiny ten-people party led by a lawyer who
claims that he was as "Leninist".

        The POMR and the PTS compelled Blanco to split the ARI. As a result
the left ended divided into 5 mini-fronts. All combined they won less than
15% of the votes and Blanco only had 3.7%, losing 2/3 of his previous
percentage. Belaunde, who was the very unpopular right-wing president
overthrown by the nationalist junta in 1978, was elected because he could
fulfil the vacuum created by the divided and electoralist left.  A few
months after the elections the majority of the former ARI members decided to
unite with the CP and other real bourgeois parties and they founded the
United Left.

This was a real popular front which would support repressive measures and
privatisation. The same so-called trotskyist forces which divided the ARI
under the pretext that this was a counter-revolutionary front, tried to
enter in  the United left or several of its committees.

Between 1980 and 1982 the POMR and the PTS started to create a united party,
which was by far the biggest so-called trotskyist force. In 1982 the
Morenoite and Lambertist currents decided to split and Napuri didn’t agree
with Lambert. Villaran, became the main supporter of Lambert in Peru.

Villaran followed Lambert’s orders to try to justify in moral terms a
rupture with Napuri. Napuri was expelled after the accusation of taking his
parliamentary wage for himself and not for the party. This was not the first
bureaucratic rupture which Villaran led. This was a scandal and Moreno
seized the opportunity. He set up an international moral tribunal to
investigate the case. This considerably damaged the POMR and Villaran’s
image. Half of the POMR and Napuri were recruited by the Morenoites.

In 1985 Napuri stood as a presidential candidate, winning only 15,000 votes.
His party went into a process of decline. Since that time no trotskyist has
been elected to any parliament.  Villaran’s POMR became even smaller and
they wanted to dissolve the party with the aim of creating a Workers Party
with the same name and symbols as Lula’s Brazilian PT.

The lambertists initially considered the Brazilian PT as a reactionary party
which has to be boycotted. Later they made a complete U-Turn and decided to
adapt to Lula and to create similar PTs to the one that the Brazilian
reformists had made.  The lambertists were wrong. It was correct to
participate in the creation of the PT but at the same time it is important
to try to build a revolutionary tendency in opposition to Lula’s increasing

Villaran tried to create a Peruvian PT in fusion with several trade union
bureaucrats and popular-frontists (like Letts, Simons, etc.). Villaran
abandoned the project of building a separate trotskyist revolutionary party
and united fronts in the Lenininist way. He wanted joint parties with
centrists and reformists in which programmes have to be compromised. His PT
decided to fight for other governments rather than the workers and peasant
one. Some times he was in favour of a government that would not pay the
foreign debt or for the popular front, etc. All of these were variants of a
stageist strategy in which the lambertists ended up.

 Villaran became one of the main Latin American organisers of the constant
"international conferences" which the lambertist apparatus launched. In all
of them the idea was to try to invite as many "left" bourgeois figures (like
Cardenas in Mexico) and trade unions bureaucrats (like the COB
leadership in Bolivia) into events that would not decide nothing and would
substitute the fight for a revolutionary international with joint
proclamations against the IMF.

Villaran was never a great theoretician.  His own international never
promoted independent minded people. He was a very energetic and
self-sacrificing activist. He wrote a book on Mariategui, the founder of
Andean Marxism, in which he adopted a conciliatory position in relation to
Mariategui's mistakes.

One of the worst tragedies of Villaran was his split with his most eminent
collaborator: Hernan Cuentas. They were together in the creation of the POMR
and in the not pleasant and some times very nasty expulsion of the
Healyites, Wienner, Lora-Altramira and Napuri. Cuentas was elected twice to
the parliament. He was in charge of the party’s print operations. The
lambertist international accused him of stealing the party print-shop and
Villaran and the rest of the PT expelled him. Cuentas is still ill and

In his last years Villaran was very friendly with us. He was sorry about the
way he treated Wienner. Napuri apologised for his misbehaviour to Wienner
and the comrades who created the Fourth Internationalist Tendency in 1979.
Villaran never apologised to Napuri or any of  the POMR’s

At this stage, not many people would remember him. The left in Peru is
terribly diminished. Despite his mistakes he was a man who dedicated his
entire life to the revolution. I knew him since the beginning of my
political life in the trotskyist movement. I was with him in the FOCEP’s
first days but I had to break with him when he demanded all power to the
right-wing constituent assembly. In many trade-union conferences the
comrades from Poder Obrero and the PT worked together. Over around two
decades we have had many differences but he was always a very
self-sacrificing and humble man. Last time I saw him he was working as a
very low paid employee in the library of the Social Security Institute.

Like many centrists he suffered very much from the pressure of  the
democratic counter-offensive. Nevertheless, he never broke with his working
class, as many Peruvian left-wingers did. He never capitulated to the
bourgeoisie. He never abandon his subjective trotskyism like most of the
former fourth-internationalists in the Andes.  He died as a man that never
left the red banner or the aim of the proletarian revolution.

Jorge, old friend and also opponent in many discussions, we will  always
remember you. We extend our embraces to his children and relatives, to his
comrades from the Peruvian PT and his Fourth International and to his
hundreds of his trade union comrades.

Adios amigo

Juan Ponce

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