I, David Stoll, Liar.

Julio Fernández Baraibar julfb at SPAMsinectis.com.ar
Fri Oct 29 16:56:17 MDT 1999

Excelente comentario a la basura imperialista de Stoll.
Fortunately here in Argentina this piece of shit is not known by the
bourgeois press. But some articles appeared a time ago about this story on
"the lies of Rigoberta Menchu" in relation with the death of her brothers or
something thus.

Julio F.B.

----- Original Message -----
From: Sam Pawlett <rsp at uniserve.com>
To: <marxism at lists.panix.com>; <lbo-talk at lists.panix.com>;
<pen-l at galaxy.csuchico.edu>
Sent: Thursday, October 28, 1999 7:18 PM
Subject: I, David Stoll, Liar.

> David Stoll. Occupation:Debunker.
> by David Stoll Westview Press,1999,336pgs.
> "White people have been writing our history for 500 years. No white
> anthropologist is going to tell me what I experienced in my own flesh."
> -Rigoberta Menchu, 1995.
>    Students of Latin America may be familiar with David Stoll's earlier
> effort *Is Latin America Turning Protestant?* where he argues that the
> Protestant sects have succeeded where the left has failed. The left and
> left oriented Catholicism demands too much of people,  seeking salvation
> through collective action and effort on this earth whereas the
> Protestants have completely given up on this world and instead seek
> salvation through individual submission to God. As a result, the
> Protestants have been more successful in attracting converts and
> enlarging their flock.
>    In this controversial new book, Stoll again presents himself as the
> ruthless pursuer of the truth shattering yet another myth, this time the
> story of the recipient of the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize and Guatemalan
> Indigenous campesina leader Rigoberta Menchu. The target of Stoll's
> attack is not so much Rigoberta Menchu- Stoll's investigations largely
> confirm her story presented in *I,Rigoberta Menchu* -- but the
> Guatemalan left and their supporters throughout the world. Stoll
> believes that *I,Rigoberta Menchu* justifies guerrilla warfare and class
> struggle (p216,231,278) and to undermine class struggle and guerilla
> warfare one must undermine *I,Rigoberta Menchu*.(282) As Stoll says
> "Facing the limitations of *I,Rigoberta Menchu* will, I hope, help the
> Latin America left and its foreign supporters escape from the captivity
> of Guevarismo. At bottom rural guerrilla strategies are an urban
> romance, a myth propounded by middle class radicals who dream of finding
> true solidarity in the countryside."(p282).
> Elsewhere (p137ff), Stoll faults the URNG for practicing "foquismo"
> which led the guerrillas to defeat. But what the URNG practiced and
> preached as well as what is described in *I,Rigoberta Menchu* is the
> farthest thing from foquismo.(see George Black p79ff.)
>  Stoll seeks to establish a number of theses in his book:
> 1) The Guatemalan guerrillas ,specifically the EGP (Guatemalan Army of
> the Poor), were not and are not representative of indigenous peasants.
> The guerrilla struggle did not correspond to the needs and aspirations
> of the peasant highland communities.
> 2) The URNG's (Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity- comprised of
> four groups; EGP, FAR [Rebel Armed Forces], OPRA [Revolutionary
> Organization of the People in Arms] and PGT [Guatemalan Workers Party])
> version of history is false. The revolution and its ideology was not
> grassroots and did not arise out of popular struggles from the bottom
> up. The guerrillas Marxist-Leninist ideology was not native to the
> inhabitants of El Quiche and Huehuetenango but rather imposed from the
> outside by middle class intellectuals and students. This ideology thus
> does not correspond to the reality of the highland peasant.
> 3) The pre-revolutionary situation in the highlands was essentially
> peaceful, class struggle was absent and the main conflicts occurred
> between poor peasants (e.g. family/village feuds) and not between
> classes.
> 4) The main locus of oppression was ethnicity (ladinos&whites vs.
> indigenous) and not class.
> 5) Menchu's story was told to conform to what the western left expects
> of indigenous peoples i.e. class struggle leading to socialist
> revolution. She thus abrogated her claim to speak on behalf of all poor
> Guatemalans.
> 6) Peasants joined the guerrillas because they has no choice believing
> the guerrillas would defend them from the army and the ruling class not
> because of ideology.
> 7) The guerrillas did not give an adequate account of ethnicity and the
> indigenous peasantry thus making serious flaws in their organizing,
> actions and expectations. The guerrillas did not put indigenous peoples
> in leadership positions.
> 8) Guerrillism is risky and is doomed to failure as a mode of social
> transformation.
> 9) The URNG failed to protect their constituents from the army's
> brutality and underestimated the brutality of the military and
> paramilitary forces in quelling the insurgency.
> 10) The revolution was not brought about by economic pressure on the
> peasantry.
> 11) Many of the civil patrols formed in the highland were formed by
> peasants trying to protect themselves from the  military.
>     None of these claims are new, they are all staples of
> counter-insurgency literature and the right wing armchair reactionaries
> that grace the op-ed pages of North American newspapers as well as the
> pseudo intellectual groveling that takes place in pulp fiction magazines
> like New Republic and National Review.
>      However, Stoll  in his investigations comes up with some new
> evidence that ,as he admits, corroborates Rigoberta's story or otherwise
> gives good excuses for the actual inaccuracies that occur in it(p9).
> When
> *I, Rigoberta Menchu* was published in 1983, the Guatemalan military and
> death squads were still murdering anyone who expressed even the
> mildest resistance to the status quo. Rigoberta sought to protect the
> identity of the figures who appear in her story(p191.) This is where
> Stoll's book is most valuable, for he presents a story that damns the
> Guatemalan military and establishment as strong as Rigoberta's does. He
> even manages to debunk some common right wing claims e.g. that the Rios
> Montt regime stopped the death squads and halted extra-judicial
> political murder.
>    Stoll relies on anecdotal evidence -a handful of interviews with
> campesinos conducted in 1995- to establish the tensions and inaccuracies
> in Rigoberta's story and the version of Guatemalan history presented by
> the URNG. To his credit, Stoll does not rely exclusively on government -
> both U.S. and Guatemalan- for his information, he to some extent, lets
> the peasants speak for themselves. He can be faulted on many accounts.
> It is easy to criticize a failed revolution after the fact.  Most of the
> revolutionaries and their sympathizers are either dead, in jail, in
> exile or frightened to speak to anyone about politics. His interviews
> are not representative of the population but feature people he claims
> are missing
> from the left and right wing accounts of Guatemalan history. These are
> the people
> who supported neither the military nor the guerrillas. Stoll supposes
> this faction is quite large though it is impossible to know. Further as
> Rigoberta says "If they are now collaborating with the army why believe
> them?"
>    Stoll tries to establish that it was the guerrillas who provoked the
> military in its genocidal campaign in the Guatemalan highlands, thus
> closing off any possibility of peaceful social change.
> Yet clearly, state repression and massacres pre-date the appearance of
> the EGP and the other armed groups. Guatemala was after all under a
> military dictatorship from 1954. Many people consider it legitimate to
> use violence against an unconstitutional military regime regardless of
> the merits of doing so.
>  Stoll likes to pick apart the publications of people struggling for
> social change, so lets pick him apart. Despite his own self-professed
> sensitivity to racial dynamics, Stoll is not beyond engaging  in racial
> stereotyping of his own. For example we are told "International
> adulation for Rigoberta has brought out the Guatemalan penchant for
> backbiting."(p275.)  Well, perhaps Stoll's "Ixil sources"(p8). are just
> engaging in traditional Guatemalan backbiting when they denounce the
> revolutionary movement as the aggressors in the civil war?
>    Stoll claims that "although a large majority of their(the URNG-SP)
> fighters came to be indigenas, their leadership continued to be
> completely ladino above the level of the columns."(p204) This is false.
> A man
> named Efrain Bamuca , a full blooded indigena came to be a Commandante
> in the OPRA and later married U.S. activist Jennifer Harbury and was
> subsequently tortured to death by the military. But then as Stoll says
> "For an audience uncomfortable with its middle class privileges and the
> U.S. record in Guatemala, Rigoberta's story of oppression is analogous
> to a preacher reminding listeners that they are sinners. Then her story
> of joining the left and learning that not all outsiders are evil makes
> it possible for the audience to be on her side, providing a sense of
> absolution."p243. So , Bamaquez was really just providing Harbury with a
> relief for her middle class guilt, so that doesn't count.
>    One of Stoll's techniques common to all counter-insurgency
> literature  is to set
> up a false dichotomy between peasants and guerrillas reducing mass
> struggle to armed struggle. However, the two forms are interrelated,
> villagers and peasants joined or supported the guerrilla struggle as the
> ruling class repressed violently all social and nationalist movements
> for social change. The guerrilla movement was a defensive responses to
> the elite violence and an attempt to address the basic social demands of
> the majority. The peasants were not conceptually or practically distinct
> from the guerrillas, only under the most severe conditions of inhuman
> repression and intimidation by the capitalist State did the guerrillas
> and the communities become separated when the army massacred whole
> villages forcing the peasant and Indian guerrillas into the mountains
> and jungles.
>    Stoll maintains that the guerrillas precipitated the violence, that
> guerrilla violence was present in El Quiche  before the military started
> kidnaping, murdering civilians and burning down whole villages.. Yet his
> statements to this effect are wildly inconsistent. For instance:
> "The EGP's role in setting off political violence was the central
> problem...it would become apparent that the bloodshed had been
> precipitated by the EGP's decision to turn her area(Rigoberta's S.P.)
> into a battleground."p193
> "By the time the guerrillas arrived in Uspantan (Rigoberta's hometown),
> the army was an experienced killing machine, all too ready to retaliate
> against possible civilian collaborators because it knew that was the way
> to defeat the guerrillas themselves." p155
> "Army kidnappings began not in reaction to peaceful efforts by Ixils to
> improve their lot but to guerrilla organizing and ambushes. If anyone
> ignited violence in Ixil country it was the Guerrilla Army of the Poor.
> Only then had the security forces militarized the area turned it into a
> killing ground."p9
> "By 1981 southern Quiche was in a state of rebellion. ANGERED BY
> GOVERNMENT KILLINGS, most of the population seemed to support the
> Guerrilla Army of the Poor. According to one source, over a thousand
> people from the municipio of Santa Cruz alone joined the guerrilla
> forces. Organized by CUC (Committee for Campesino Unity- peasant union
> that joined the URNG in 1979-SP.)
> "And incorporated into the EGP, they mined roads, burned government
> vehicles, blew up electrical infrastructure, fired on helicopters
> ambushed government patrols and attacked bases. They also practiced
> self-defense by setting up warning systems and digging booby traps. But
> the insurgents did not have enough firepower to protect themselves from
> the army, which was soon burning villages...."p101
> "But in Uspantan,.during the entire war it (the EGP S.P.)  attacked the
> security forces just once on April 25,1980 when two plainclothes
> policmen were
> shot near the plaza. The local support the guerrillas won seems to have
> been mainly in BESIEGED  villages that were soon destroyed. Survivors
> became refugees on the run, most of whom were killed captured, or forced
> into submission, leaving only  a handful to flee north to the
> Communities of Population in Resistance."p137
> Stoll dates the first appearance of the EGP in El Quiche to April 1979.
> Yet, officially Quiche had been under a state of siege and occupied by
> the military since 1976 (Black p79). The military's strategic hamlet
> program began in 1976 as well. Huehuetenago weas occupied by the
> military in 1976 when the militant local labour unions went on strike at
> the Tum mine. In May 1978, more than 100 Kekchi Indians were massacred
> by the army at Panzos while protesting over land rights.
>  Stoll then says
> "By June 1978 the Catholic diocese counted more than 75 government
> kidnappings in Ixil country, plus dozens more in the Ixcan."
> And
> "A fertile district of Alta Verapaz where finca owners called in the
> army to fend off Quiche Maya peasants challenging their property lines.
> On May 29,1978 landowners and soldiers machine gunned a crowd of
> demonstrators in the town square. The army had declared open season on
> campesinos demanding their rights...As the rebel youth of Nicaragua
> demonstrated the potential of street warfare, Guatemalans listened on
> their radios and dreamed of liberating their own country."p51.
> Stoll shifts between claiming that the army reacted to guerrilla
> violence or reacted  to guerilla organizing.
> "Accounts like this illustrate how hard it is to define when guerrilla
> organizing began. No one except survivors among the first cadre in an
> area may know because it was the EGP's policy to infiltrate pre-existing
> structures and only gradually disclose its agenda even to the people it
> was organizing."p118
>     Throughout the book, Stoll keeps asking if the guerrillas had little
> support ,as he believes, then why the amount of killing and all the
> brutality.
> "The avalanche of violence presented in the previous two chapters has
> probably been difficult for readers to comprehend. If Uspanatan was
> relatively peaceful how could the execution of two ladinos unleash so
> much brutality?"p153
> "For the quantity of killing committed by the Guatemalan army, many
> observers have assumed that the insurgency was a popular uprising- why
> else so much bloodshed?"p137
> "What reduced it to the fanatical anticommunism that allowed it to
> slaughter so many men, women and children? "P279.
>   Stoll cannot answer this question because of the dichotomy he sets up
> between the guerrillas the communities. The only the way the army could
> stop a revolution among the Indians and peasantry was by massacring them
> and instituting a permanent culture of fear. There is no way of
> separating the guerrillas from the communities, the Church, unions and
> other civil organizations.
>    Stoll maintains the revolution had nothing to do with political
> economy and economic pressure on the peasantry(p154). He would do well
> to consult his mentor Timothy Wickham Crowley:
> "Indian settlers and sometimes older Indian villagers in the "Zone of
> the Generals" were uprooted from their lands in what soon resembled a
> large assault on the peasants very access to land...land grabs occurred
> in areas that provided a guerrilla haven.
> "Percentages of land poor and landless among the peasantry are almost
> surely responsible for the falling levels per capita food consumption
> among the peasantry... Using the U.N. minimum of 2,236 calories daily,
> 45% of the Guatemalan people fell below the subsistence level in 1965, a
> proportion that increased sharply in the period under consideration: to
> 70% below minimum in 1975 and 805 by 1980. Brockett has also linked such
> conditions "backward' to decreased peasant access to land and "forward"
> to increased levels of malnutrition among the Guatemalan peasantry...
> The authors also link the increased level of exploitation to increased
> support of the Indian populace for the highlands insurgency."
> Wickham-Crowley p239-40.
>   These are but a few of the inconsistencies and contradictions in
> Stoll's account. No doubt readers will find more. His book is a slapdash
> affair full of unsubstantiated assertions and opinions. His evidence
> consists of rumors and a handful of conversations with locals made
> around 1995. His evidence in no way supports any of his conclusions.
> Stoll gets a D for effort and an F for content.
> Sam Pawlett
> Sources:
> David Stoll. *Rigoberta Menchu and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans*
> Westview,1999
> .
> George Black with Norma Chinchella and Milton Jamail. *Garrison
> Guatemala*,MR Press,1984
> William Blum. *Killing Hope*. Common Courage,1995
> Timothy Wickham-Crowley. *Guerrillas and Revolution in Latin America*,
> Princeton U Press,1992.
> Elizebeth Burgos ed. *I,Rigoberta Menchu*, Verso 1984.
> James Petras Critical Persepectives on the Central American Peace
> Accords:
> A Class Analysis. Critique 30-1 p71-89
> Guatemala Report. Various Issues.

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