Interview with Hugo Blanco

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri May 12 09:14:17 MDT 2000

[this just appeared on Jim Hurd's New-Party mailing list. I don't know
where it appeared originally.]

Interview with Hugo Blanco by Pedro Brieger*

Hugo Blanco is 65. His world renown stems principally from having led a
peasant guerrilla movement at the beginning of the 1960s in the south of
Peru. He spent 8 years in prison but through international solidarity was
freed and went into exile. He returned to Peru in 1978 and became a member
of the Constituent Assembly - he was subsequently a deputy and a senator
until President Fujimori closed the Peruvian parliament down in 1992. Today
he again works the land and is a member of the peasant organization the
Central Campesina del Peru (CCP) and of the Partido Unificado Mariateguista
(Unified Mariateguista Party - PUM). This interview, which has been edited
for reasons of space, took place at the CCP headquarters in Lima, shortly
before the Peruvian general election of April 9th.

PB: For a number of years you were a parliamentarian and today you again
work the land as a farmer. How have you experienced the change from
parliamentarian, with a decent standard of living, to peasant?

HB: I never had luxuries nor needed much to live, so the difference is not
that great. The money that I received as a parliamentarian I used to keep
in touch with the grassroots. Today, I am a farmer and in the Confederacion
Campesina del Peru (CCP) trying to defend farmers who are dying of hunger
as a result of neoliberal policies. The peasantry is the most hard-hit
sector because the neoliberal policy has allowed the entry of cheap
industrial goods and this has closed the Peruvian factories. The workers
have been sacked, those who remain are full of fear that if they try to
increase their wages they will be sacked. As a result of unemployment and
low wages the urban population cannot afford to buy the products of the

PB: At the political level is there a big difference between being in
parliament and being out of it?

HB: Sure, when you are in parliament you are always in the media and today
I do not have coverage in the press. But this is a secondary thing because
I have always worked in a social function. Sometimes the press gives me
attention and sometimes not; sometimes I am a parliamentarian, sometimes
not, sometimes I am a prisoner, sometimes not... I am a social fighter who
has been obliged by circumstances sometimes to be a guerrilla and sometimes
to be a parliamentarian. When we suffered repression from the government
and big landowners we defended ourselves with arms. Then with time we had
the possibility of doing parliamentary work and then I was in parliament in
opposition to the pro-big business right wing majority, not simply
Fujimorism... It is true also that this got media coverage and I
participated as a parliamentarian in popular struggles. Paradoxically I
received the most beatings of my life when I was in parliament.
Parliamentary immunity is a pure myth, because on a number of occasions I
had to go to hospital after having been beaten by the police. Then in 1992
Fujimori dissolved the parliament with his autocoup .

PB: Why was there so little resistance to Fujimori s autocoup?

HB: Because parliament did not deserve the support of the people, it was
cut off from the people, as parliaments have always been in Peru. And
people did not view with hostility the fact that this parliament was
dissolved. The people had voted against parties and for this reason voted
for Fujimori. APRA (the previous governing party, linked to the Socialist
International) was a party that milked a lot of money from the state
enterprises, from the Agrarian Bank. So when it was said "we have to
privatize" people felt happy. "Good, they said, this will put an end to
this corruption in the state enterprises". Also Fujimori was supported
because Sendero Luminoso had terrorized so many people. This terror ended
because Fujimori crushed Sendero and people can now breathe more easily.
This also helped Fujimori. Then there was the problem of inflation. One can
say that in the past the people voted for Fujimori, but today I do not
believe that would be the case today were it not for electoral fraud. Also
the people do not have a valid alternative because the opposition is
dispersed. If we were united, the people would vote for the opposition.
Some will vote for one or another, some will spoil their votes, others no
vote, but with the discouragement of knowing that Fujimori will win.

PB: What is the current situation of the Peruvian left?

HB: It is very atomized and weakened, and for this reason will not even
present a candidate for the April elections. The PUM still exists,
fundamentally at the level of peasant work, for this still goes on, but as
a party does not have much profile. The PUM has a good parliamentarian in
Javier Diez Canseco who is honest, combative, and intelligent. Javier is
the ideal candidate to be a member of parliament because the militancy in
which he believes is located at the level of parliament. But this is not so
for me. Always I was more linked to the mass movement. This is my place.

PB: What is your analysis of the indigenous and popular uprising against
the government of Jamil Mahuad in Ecuador that ended with the fall of the
president Mahuad?

HB: I believe that revolutionary processes take place in two stages. In
"soviet" terms this compares to the February revolution and the October
revolution. In Chile, for example there was the February revolution with
the coming to power of Allende in 1970, but Allende held back the advance
of the process and this is why the coup succeeded in 1973. If the process
does not advance, it goes backwards.

PB: But in Ecuador less than 40% of the population is indigenous. What
success can a movement enjoy when it does not represent the majority of the

HB: In reality they were the vanguard of the struggle because the urban
population also participated in their support. Now, the movement had the
removal of Mahuad as its objective; but it had not envisaged what to do
then. For this brought it up against something much bigger that it had not
discussed and for which it had not prepared. Perhaps it was an error to
negotiate to form a junta with the military... One has to be very innocent
to be betrayed by the Armed forces, knowing that they are the enemies of
the people and that they are with the oppressor sectors... It would be one
thing to set up a junta of colonels supported by the people, but this was
not the case, it was a triumvirate formed by the joint command. It is
absurd to think that the peasants can govern with them.

PB: In the 1960s and 1970s there was a very significant process of
migration from the countryside to the city that changed the social
structure of the majority of the countries in Latin America. Today we see
the importance of the social weight of the peasantry in Ecuador, in
Chiapas, in Peru...

HB: That s right. But it seems to me a positive step. Because I am one of
those who struggle for the defense of cultural identity that does not exist
in Peru like in Bolivia, Ecuador or Mexico, where there is a strong pride
in cultural identity. In the CCP we are majority indigenous but sometimes
it seems to people that we discriminate against non-indigenous peasants
because the secretary general was an Aimara Indian, then a Quechua Indian.
In our secretariat over the past period the majority were Quechua Indians.
There are demands which are ours, indigenous, that we raise as general
demands, like for example the defense of coca, of the peasant communities
and of our form of social organization. But this is done at the level of
the CCP. Indigenous and non-indigenous peasants alike, we defend the
peasant communities.

PB: What is the relationship with the urban sectors, what is the situation
of the workers movement in Peru today?

HB: The workers movement is very much weakened because the factories have
been closed as a result of neoliberalism - and those who remain in the
factories are afraid of losing their jobs. They are very much weakened. The
only strong sector is in civil construction - this is the most combative
sector and it is indigenous in its majority. But factory workers are very
much weaker - like the CGT-P - and are not combative.

PB: You lived in Mexico for several years and have followed the Zapatista
uprising closely - what does Chiapas mean to you? Unhappily, Chiapas is
alone because in Mexico the social movement is more uneven than in Peru. It
is true that the Federal District elected a leftwing governor. But there is
not the kind of relative uniformity that exists in Brazil, Peru or Ecuador.
The important thing is that they seek to break out of their isolation using
the Internet and linking up with all progressive movements or political
currents anywhere in the world. These things reflect very well on the
Zapatista leadership and it pleases me very much that indigenous identity
is one of their themes because the indigenous movement of Latin America
integrates other struggles, it considers itself part of all the exploited
sectors, stressing its identity and its own struggle, but not feeling
itself superior to the other exploited sectors, fortunately.

PB: What future will there be for the Zapatista movement if it does not
pose the seizure of power and is concentrated in one region? .

HB: It depends on the development of the whole social movement of which
they are not the vanguard as they themselves emphasize. Everything depends
on the development of the struggle in this country, sadly Chiapas is very
isolated and I do not know what the future holds. In truth, I thought that
they were going to be crushed but happily this has not yet happened.

PB: Doesn t this raise the necessity of a revolutionary party that can
centralize struggles? Or do you no longer believe in the necessity of
building revolutionary parties?

HB: I don t now believe in the "vanguard" role of political parties. They
should exist as centers for discussion, debate and reflection on social
problems and take it to the social movements. The trauma that we have
suffered with the USSR shows us that so-called democratic centralism became
deformed and turned into bureaucratic centralism with Stalin at its head.
Obviously this is the worst example, but I have not seen any more positive
example in the development of struggles. I don t believe that there are two
kinds of people, some who are the elect of God, those inside the party and
others who are outside. I agree with democratic centralism inside the CCP,
for example when it s necessary to support a march. But this is democratic
centralism by action, not in terms of ideas.

PB: What meaning does it have to be in a party then, why stay in the PUM?

HB: Because it is an important forum of debate. I don t believe I will be
thrown out for saying outside the party what I say inside.

PB: You were well known for openly defining yourself as a Trotskyist. Do
you still do so today?

HB: I think so. It depends. I would call myself a Leninist, but not with
respect to democratic centralism. If Lenin came back, he would be
disappointed at the way we have copied the Bolshevik movement. We boast of
being "Bolsheviks". But this was a movement that was effective in Russia
in1917 and there is no reason it should be effective in Peru in the year
2000. It seems to me that this is completely antidialectical. We quote
Mariategui when he said that the socialist revolution in Peru would be
neither tracing nor copy. We keep saying it but we also continue to copy.
Lenin was a heretic because Marx thought that the revolution would take
place in England, the most developed country and Lenin said rather that it
would happen in the weakest link of capitalism. This heresy is what makes
one authentically Marxist. Thus we must be heretics to be Marxists, but not
"Bolsheviks". The essential of Marxism is the analysis of reality and
paying appropriate respect to that reality. In this sense I continue to
consider myself a Marxist, and a Trotskyist, but if you form! a party of
the Leninist type, you will form a bureaucracy and I am against this type
of party.

PB: Fujimori has crushed Sendero Luminoso; for the mass movement is the
disappearance of Sendero a positive thing?

HB: You bet!!!! Today the CCP can go forward because Sendero does not
exist. They would kill peasant leaders -including some who had been
prisoners for being Senderistas (!)- as "traitors" to the peasant movement
because they advocated other roads than the armed struggle. This weakened
the mass movement. Also because the army used Sendero as a pretext to
repress us, and killed us in the name of the fight against Sendero. There
were people who were killed by the army and then they would say it was
Sendero. The armed forces killed us claiming that they were actions of
Sendero and repressed us saying that we were Senderistas or things of this
kind. These things don t happen now.

PB: And the MRTA?

HB: The MRTA were not as crazy as Sendero because they were more respectful
of the mass organizations and of the CCP. But I do not agree with them
because they substitute the action of the population in general with the
audacious action of a vanguard and this method does not seem to me correct
though I respect them a lot. I don t agree with this vanguardist
methodology in any sense, and much less in an armed sense.

PB Are the popular forces demanding the liberation of the Sendero leaders?

HB: No, in no way. They remain a marginal sect.

PB: And you?

HB: Me, yes because I am in favor of amnesty for political prisoners
although one can do nothing in common with Sendero because even on
demonstrations for human rights they come with their banners calling for
the armed struggle and impose it on everyone else.

PB: Given the deindustrialization throughout Latin America and the weakness
of the trade unions, how do you see the recomposition of the popular camp?

HB: History will tell us. You have to open your eyes and see how the
popular movement is recomposing. The CCP gets stronger all the time. From
having been smashed by repression, by war - because we were fired on by
both sides, Sendero Luminoso and the army -- today we are coming back. I
believe that in quality we are better than before because we have learned
much with experience. There are distinct opinions in the CCP because there
are people who take the CCP as the pillar which is going to head the
struggle and others -like me- who believe that we are a force but that the
regional movements are another increasingly vigorous force. On May 1st last
year I was in Cusco and there were no proletarians there, it was the
itinerant peddlers who were there on the demonstration. This means that it
is the peddlers, the students, the professional layers or the popular
neighborhoods who are coming forward.

PB: You mentioned the peddlers as forming part of the social struggles
although they belong to a fairly marginal social sector. It is a very
different scenario from that of 30 or 40 years ago when one looked to the
working masses to mobilize for sectoral or more general demands.

HB: Yes, that s true. I believe that aspects of the Communist Manifesto are
still valid now, like the concentration of capital or the internal
contradictions of capital. I believe that today this is taking place in a
much more acute manner than Marx ever imagined. Nowadays some are very
happy because the working class is disappearing little by little and being
replaced by the machine... Yes, but the machine will not buy commodities.
But, as to this question of the vanguard of the working class... in Latin
America now I do not think that it is thus, because the organic weakening
that the working class has undergone and because there are other social
sectors that are coming into struggle. This is not the time to speak of the
dictatorship of the proletariat, not even in the sense that Lenin used it,
of democratic government, a dictatorship against the bourgeoisie, because I
don t believe that this is the time to speak of dictatorships. Now the
people are mistrustful of dictatorships. I believe in a future government
composed of distinct sectors, peasants, workers, employed and unemployed,
neighborhoods, regions, professionals, and so on. We will see in the course
of history.

*Argentine sociologist.

Louis Proyect

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