On 11 September 2021, Chairman Gonzalo has been reported to be dead by the Peruvian prison service and the Peruvian government.(1) The president of Peru, Pedro Castillo, has tweeted in regards to Gonzalo’s death:
“The terrorist ringleader Abimael Guzmán, responsible for the loss of countless lives of our compatriots, has died. Our stance of condemning terrorism is firm and unwavering.”
Born as Abimael Guzmán, Chairman Gonzalo was the leader of the Partido Comunista del Perú(PCP) also known as the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path in English). The PCP initiated People’s War in Peru in 1980, and waged a righteous struggle against the U.$.-backed regimes in Peru until the capture of its leadership in 1992. Arguably the first communist leader to explain Maoism as the next stage of communism, Gonzalo was instrumental in pushing these ideas within the international communist movement.
At age 86, Gonzalo had lived in complete isolation in a Peruvian prison for 29 years. Long-term solitary confinement is a form of torture used around the world to combat political dissent. It is used most extensively within the United $tates, where in recent years over 100,000 people languished in such conditions.
Religious Idealism Barks
Gonzalo was an infamous figure in Peruvian society. The revolutionary violence of the PCP sparked hostile reactions especially from the petty bourgeoisie, the middle-peasants, and the likes within Peru. One outspoken figure which repeated these sentiments condemning Gonzalo on his death day was Archbishop Eguren of the Catholic Church in Peru. During a mass on September 12, a day after Gonzalo’s death, Eguren said this referring to the Maoist ideology and the Maoists of Peru:
“Along with him fell the principal members of his communist, terrorist, genocidal, and murderous gang, which caused the massacres of entire communities of poor inhabitants of our Andes and jungle regions in the 1980s and 1990s.”(2)
The Archbishop continued:
“The day Guzmán was captured was also one year after the start of the campaign ‘Peace in Peru is well worth a Rosary.’ This campaign was conceived and promoted by Bishop Ricardo Durand Flórez S.J., a great Peruvian bishop who, throughout his life and ministry, worked hard for the poor according to the Gospel.”(3)
After condemning Marxism through the usual Christian idealism, Archbishop Eguren replaces the anti-capitalist vacuum with the Catholic church’s historical response to poverty and capitalist ills: distribution of wealth and charity to the poor. We Maoists do not believe in the metaphysical notion that “the poor will always be with us,” nor that walking across a homeless person on the street is a test by god to prove ourselves of our good heart and soul. We believe poverty – and the impoverished proletariat along with the rich bourgeoisie – comes out of material phenomena: rise of capitalism through revolution, class struggle, and change of production relations. Thus, the elimination of poverty and capitalist ills will be done through the proletarian revolution against capitalism, class struggle, and change of production relations as well; not through wealth redistribution nor through charity.
Along with condemning Marxism, Eguren used this chance to call for the elimination of the politicians and bureaucrats of the current Peruvian government who had historical ties to the Maoist movement:
“We Peruvians should not forget, for an instant what this intrinsically perverse ideology embodies, as well as the immense suffering it has caused in the recent history of our country, much less allow it today to be able to seize total power. Therefore: Mr. President, clean up your cabinet!”(4)
Chairman Gonzalo and the PCP’s legacy in Peru is often associated with the “violent left.” So it is appropriate that one of the most popular opportunist and reformist newsletters, Jacobin, condemned Gonzalo by saying that Peru’s left is finally free to “move forward.”(5)
In the article, “The Shining Path’s Abimael Guzmán Helped Keep Peru in the Past,” Jacobin news cited the Lucanamarca massacre and the violence of the PCP against the indigenous masses as one of the main arguments against the PCP. The Communist Party of Peru (PCP) has mentioned in their writings the attacks against the masses by the masses, and how the state security used the differing class levels of the peasantry against itself (poor peasants, middle peasants, rich peasants). These tactics to divide the masses are used against the communists of India as well. In the remote and countryside regions under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (CPI-Maoist), the capitalist lapdogs in India find it much more useful to use local reactionaries against the guerrillas than using the army. If not the local police, it is the paramilitary organizations of rich peasants, middle peasants, lumpen-bourgeoisie, lumpen-proletariat, etc. that is attacking the Maoists. In Peru, the majority of the PCP guerrillas were indigenous themselves as the main population base in the communists’ base areas were indigenous.
When judging the legacy of a People’s War and a revolutionary party, communists should know when to throw away the baby with the bathwater and when to still keep it. Before the capitalist roaders overthrew socialism in the Soviet Union, many of the errors of what would become the capitalist line (commandism and economism) has been planted by Stalin as well and other comrades. This did not cause Mao to throw away Stalin’s legacy. In the same breath, when Fidel Castro liberated Cuba from imperialism and semi-feudalism, his merits were part of a worldwide movement for national liberation of the colonies at the time – it isn’t until Castro’s selling out of the entire island to the Soviet social-imperialists as a sugar factory that Maoists should throw Castro away.
Heavier Than Mount Tai
It is well within the realms of material reality that the PCP’s legacy among the general Peruvian society lies not only in the Peruvian comprador bourgeoisie who propagate the ideas of the PCP as bloodthirsty terrorists, but also within the bad lines and practices of the PCP as well. It is an often repeated idea we hear that if the revolution fails, it is the fault of the revolutionaries. In the same light, it’s the internal characteristics not the external of a communist movement that will ultimately decide its success and failures.
We must draw a clear line between us and those who condemn the PCP because they waged People’s War. Whatever internal contradictions led to the collapse of the Peruvian revolution, it was a shining example in theory by leading the world to the concrete ideas of Maoism and in practice in mobilizing the Peruvian people to control a majority of Peru before their fall.
Communists should learn their lessons from their errors in history. For the enemy to say, “Denounce Gonzalo!” is for them to also say “Don’t learn your lessons! Give up revolution!” Nevertheless, no matter what the Catholic idealists or the writers of Jacobin wish, the PCP and Chairman Gonzalo’s legacy will not go away as easily as they wish.
Long Live Chairman Gonzalo – Death Heavier than Mount Tai.
Notes1. RPP, September 11th, 2021, “Murió Abimael Guzmán, el sanguinario cabecilla del grupo terrorista Sendero Luminoso.”
2. David Ramos, September 13th, 2021, “Archbishop calls on Peruvian president to rid his administration of ties to Shining Path.” Catholic News Agency.
5. Miguel La Serna, September 15, 2021, “The Shining Path’s Abimael Guzmán Helped Keep Peru in the Past.” Jacobin.
Tania La Guerrillera Y La Epopeya Suramericana Del Che
("Tania: Undercover with Che Guevara in Bolivia" is the title of the English translation)
Ocean Press 2005
Mention the name Che Guevara virtually anywhere in the world and images of Cuba, Fidel Castro and armed struggle come to mind. Travel to places like Cuba, Peru, Bolivia and Uruguay and say the name Che and another image comes to mind; that of Haydée Tamaia Bunke Bider, better known as "Tania the guerrilla", the only womyn to live, fight and die as part of Che Guevara's Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), National Liberation Army.
The first time i came across the figure of Tania the guerrilla was in reading the book Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson, which documents Che's extraordinary political life from childhood to his death. And while Jon Lee Anderson's book is unrivaled as far as political biographies goes, his emphasis was on Guevara, so his writing on Tania left much to be desired. In stark contrast, Ulises Estrada's present work casts much needed light on this figure little known here in the U.$.
Tania the guerrilla was born Haydée Tamara Bunke Bider on 19 November 1937 in Buenos Aires, Argentina to Erich Bider, a German communist, and Nadia Bunke Bider, a Russian Jew (pg 157). The Bider's fled Nazi Germany in 1935 and settled in Buenos Aires, promptly joining the banned Argentine Communist Party (ACP) (pg 143). Nadia Bider recounts how Haydée was exposed to politics early on as the Biders hosted ACP meetings, hid weapons, stashed communist literature in their home and helped Jewish refugees (pg 162). Besides joining the ACP, Nadia and Erich also belonged to various anti-fascist organizations (pg 144).
The Biders were to remain in Argentina for most of Haydée's young life and would not return to Germany until well after the Soviet Red Army smashed fascism there. Then in 1951, when Haydée was fourteen and after having spent two years in Uruguay, the Biders moved to the German Democratic Republic (GDR), also known as East Germany, part of the old Soviet bloc (pg 145). Haydée, having lived all her life in South America, did not want to leave her home and made her parents promise to let her return when she was older (pg 145).
After arriving in the GDR, Haydée felt as if she'd experienced a "revelation" (pg 145). She immediately incorporated herself into political life. Having attended her first Free German Youth meeting, Haydée returned home with "great enthusiasm." According to Nadia, Haydée confirmed that the socialist system was superior to capitalism, because, among other things, she was allowed to speak freely and express herself politically (pg 145). No doubt that having lived in Argentina, a "democracy" where the communist party was banned and poverty and exploitation were rampant helped her make this materialist comparison.
Apparently Haydée never forgot her beloved Argentina and, after having settled into German life, couldn't help but share with her new friends her preference for Argentinian folkloric music (pg 145). Like most girls raised in a capitalist democracy (Argentina, Uruguay), Haydée was socialized into dreaming of marriage and children. When she got older, however, even in adolescence, her priority was to one day join the revolutionary struggle in Latin America — this was to remain a focal point for Haydée (pg 145).
At age 18, Haydée was admitted into the United German Socialist Party in the city of Stalinstadt. Due to Haydée's high level of political education and commitment, she was admitted into the UGSP after only a one-year waiting period instead of the mandatory two. This would be the only time in its hystory that this exception would be made (pg 258). Haydée first became familiar with Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and the struggle in the Sierra Maestra while attending the 5th annual World Youth Festival in the Soviet Union in 1957 (pg 145). Shortly thereafter, she decided she had to go to Cuba and the next two years in Germany were spent organizing for the trip (pg 146). Haydée was confident that in Cuba she'd learn the revolutionary methods with which to liberate Argentina from the imperialist stranglehold (pg 146).
Haydée's participation in Che Guevara's ELN started sometime after arriving in Cuba. She was chosen from among two other Argentinian wimmin living on the island to take part in "Operation Fantasm", which was the code name given to the mission to infiltrate the Bolivian government at the highest levels, as well as to initiate a guerrilla insurgency there (pg 20). At the time Haydée was interviewed for this position, she was working as a German translator for the Cuban Ministry of Education (pg 22). She was also involved with the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the World and the steering committee for the Woman's Federation (pg 22). In addition, Haydée also worked with the Rebel Youth Association, the Young Communist Union, she volunteered in various other serve-the-people type programs and was a member of Cuban Popular Defense Militia (pg 25). The author of this book, who was working in Cuba's Ministry of the Interior at the time and was vice-minister of "political intelligence" as well as one of the people to recruit Haydée for Operation Fantasm after Che himself recommended her, remembers how she swelled with pride whenever she wore her olive green uniform and service weapon (pg 25). Among other useful academic accomplishments of Haydée was her fluency in Spanish, English, German and French (pg 145). She'd also just received a Journalism Degree from Havan University and, at the time of her departure from the GDR, she'd just completed her first year as a philosophy major at Humboldt University in East Berlin (pg 25). It was also around this time Haydée met Carlos Fonseca, the founder and leader of the Nicaraguan Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN), to whom she'd confessed her wish to one day participate in the guerrilla struggle there (pg 25).
After being vetted and being given the role in Operation Fantasm, Haydée began training for her position, which included cryptography and learning how to use various types of communications equipment (pg 27). Haydée was not given any specifics as to her mission other than the fact that she'd be functioning mostly as a technician, but under no circumstances should she rule out the possibility of actively participating in armed struggle (pg 28). At this point, Haydée asked that she'd be allowed to choose her own pseudonym for her mission. She chose the name "Tania" in honor of Zoja Kosmodemjanskaja, a Soviet womyn guerrilla who was killed after being captured and tortured by the Nazis during the German invasion of the USSR (pg 28). Days after her training was complete, she was taken to the Ministry of Industry, where she was met, much to her surprise, by Che himself (pg 28)! After congratulating her on her decision to take up this task, Che informed her that it was not too late to back out, as he understood the gravity of what they were asking her to do. Without hesitation, Tania stated that as a communist, it was her revolutionary duty to carry out whatever task necessary to liberate Latin America from imperialist exploitation (pg 29). Che then gave her his assessment of the political, economic, social and military situation in South America. He condemned Amerikan imperialism for siphoning the region's wealth and for its subordination of Latin American governments who they bought off with only a pittance of what they themselves stole. He then concluded his assessment by telling Tania that you couldn't be a revolutionary unless you were an anti-imperialist (pg 30).
In preparing Tania for her mission, the author shared his views on guerrilla warfare with her. He said that according to his own experience in the Sierra Maestra, it would be very difficult for a guerrilla insurgency in the rural areas to maintain itself and succeed without the support of an organization in the city, especially during the insurgency's early states. Only after the revolutionary movement in the rural areas reached maturity could it then execute military and political operations with independence (pg 32). From a Maoist perspective, however, this political-military line is incorrect. Strategically speaking, it is completely backwards as the peasant masses make up the driving force of any revolutionary movement in agrarian societies. So before moving on with respect to this topic, let us be clear that as Maoists, we disagree with the Cuban political-military strategy known as Focoism. Focoism is defined as:
"The belief that small cells of armed revolutionaries can create the conditions for revolution through their actions. Demonstrated revolutionary victories, the success of the Foci, are supposed to lead the masses to revolution. Focoism often places great emphasis on armed struggle and the immediacy this brings to class warfare. Focoism is different from People's War in that it doesn't promote the mass line as part of guerrilla operations."
-From the MIM(Prisons) Glossary
So while as anti-imperialists we have great unity with the national liberation movement that booted U.$. imperialism from Cuba, we also have a variety of criticisms of Focoism, in particular the line being espoused in this book. The line that says only the "urban population" (industrial proletariat & left-wing sections of the petty-bourgeoisie) in a Third World country are advanced enough to lead the revolution is crypto-Trotskyist. The Focoists, while claiming to be communist and claiming to follow in the footsteps of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, in fact prove themselves to disagree with the philosophy of dialectical materialism in practice by attempting to prove external forces as principal both in general and in particular. By relegating the role of the masses as makers of hystory to mere spectators in hystory, the Focoists display a lack of faith in the masses and thereby uphold the bourgeoisie theory of hystory which they also claim to struggle against in their individualist attempts to bring about revolution. The Focoist political-military line upheld by the author is therefore anti-Marxist, anti-dialectical materialist, anti-communist and contradicts the entire hystorical process ever since the emergence of classes and class struggle. It is no wonder that Focoism has never succeeded in defeating imperialism anywhere in the world with the exception of Cuba. Indeed the Cuban example has been the exception and not the rule when it comes to the revolutionary transformation of society.
On the other hand, if we look at all three major stages of the Chinese Revolution: from the war of independence against Japan; to the revolutionary war that ousted the KMT from China, including Amerikan, British and French imperialism; to the struggle for New Democracy, we can see how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under the leadership of Mao Zedong struggled shoulder-to-shoulder with the masses in order to build dual power from inside the revolutionary base areas from which they were able to encroach upon, encircle and challenge the cities of China. This revolutionary war strategy is called People's War and it is the model for national liberation struggles all throughout the Third World in the era of dying imperialism.
Once her training was complete, Tania's handlers were confident she was more than prepared to fulfill her role. They believed that during the course of her training, she'd displayed many new character traits: hate for the enemy, firm ideological grasp of the revolutionary task at hand, discipline, vigilance, a disposition towards sacrifice in victory without any personal ambition or gain and satisfaction in completing her mission (pg 42). Tania soon departed for Prague under the alias "Maria Iriarte" from Argentina (pg 62).
Once in Prague, she was briefed on the next stage of her mission by Czech agents working in tandem with Cuban intelligence. Tania then travelled to Italy and then to the Federal Republic of Germany, also known as West Germany, which was split at the time between U.$., Briti$h and French imperialism. Tania's objective here was to deepen her cover as Maria Iriarte so that she may then establish herself as “Vittoria Pancini” of Italian origin (pg 62). It was in the course of these trips that Tania was finally confronted with the on-the-ground reality of capitalism and the class distinctions between the developed West and the under-developed Third World. Here Tania was able to witness the existence of poverty alongside the opulence that characterized the West; the egoism of western society and various other social ills she'd only learned about in school and her studies of Marxism. Whereas many people newly arrived in imperialist countries have swooned at the sight of such riches, Tania on the other hand found that her resolve was only strengthened (pg 63). After a few months in West Germany, Tania was sent to Italy to create another persona, that of "Laura Gutierrez Bauer", also from Argentina (pg 79).
On 5 November 1964, after returning to Italy from West Germany, Tania arrived in Peru by way of Argentina on her next stop to La Paz, Bolivia (pg 82). This is where Tania really proved her powers as a Cuban spy. Through her connections she'd established with the Argentine embassy as "Laura", she was able to infiltrate the Bolivian dictator, General Ramon Barrientos's inner circle. Near the end of 1964, Tania managed to get herself invited to a special banquet breakfast for Gen. Barrientos, where she had a conversation with him and even had pictures taken together (pg 84). Following this event, Tania abandoned her residence at Hotel La Paz and moved into the guest house belonging to Alicia Dupley Zamara, the wife of an important cement factory administrator. From here, Tania was able to stockpile connections deep within the Bolivian bourgeoisie as well as with various right-wing leaders and organizations, reactionary Christian social-democrats and pro-fascist organizations (pg 35). Next, Tania began to embed herself into various government agencies, such as the Office of Criminal Investigations, where she was able to collect information on the extent of Amerikan imperialism's penetration into the Bolivian penal and judicial system. She also gathered intelligence on the local jail in La Paz known simply as "the Panopticon" (pg 89).
Afterwards, Tania left Bolivia for Mexico City, where she was to meet a member of Cuban intelligence who informed her of her next mission and congratulated her for a job well-done. Tania had accomplished far more than anyone expected. She was also informed that she'd been voted in absentia into the Cuban "Communist" Party* (pg 76).
The next stage of Tania's mission was to gain Bolivian citizenship so as to better facilitate her cover and role in the Bolivian urban insurgency. She was to be Che's eyes and ears in the Bolivian government. Tania gained citizenship by marriage to a Bolivian university student, Mario Martinez (pg 105). On 31 December 1966, Tania met with Che in the ELN's base camp in the Bolivian mountains for the first time since leaving Cuba. By all accounts it was a joyous reunion and Tania celebrated the 9th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution with the ELN guerrillas. Two days later, Tania left camp with explicit orders from Che not to return to the camp and to refrain from any illegal activities that might blow her cover. However, on 19 March 1967, Che was angered to receive news that Tania had returned to camp. In Tania's defense, she stated there was no other member of the incipient urban insurgency she yet trusted enough to deliver fresh soldiers to the ELN, which was the task Tania was carrying out at the time. The timing, however, could not have been worse as the ELN had just suffered the desertion of two volunteers (pg 113). Che immediately ordered Tania to return to the city. Before she could leave, however, they received information that the Bolivian Army was aware of the ELN's location and were on the hunt. On 23 March 1967 combat operations began when, during the course of an ambush initiated by the Bolivian military, seven government soldiers were killed and 14 were taken prisoner. Four days later, news reached the camp that Tania's cover might have been blown when government officials announced over the radio that they were looking for someone matching Tania's description with links to the ELN. Around this same time the Bolivian police found identification belonging to a "Laura Gutierrez" inside of a jeep of a home they'd raided in search of possible connections to the ELN (pg 118).
On 31 August 1967 "Tania the guerrilla" was killed by government soldiers during an ambush along the edges of the Rio Grande. According to the only surviving member of the ELN, the group were trying to march out of the zone known as the Bella Vista mountain range where the military was attempting to confine Tania's unit, which had split off from Che's. As Tania knelt down to touch the water a single shot rang out. Tania had been shot through the arm. She immediately lifted her arm over her head to reach for the M1 slung over her back, when she suddenly collapsed. The single bullet traversed her arm and hit one of her lungs. Tania fell into the Rio Grande and was swept away by the current as shots raced back and forth between the ELN and the Bolivian Army (pg 124). Tania's body was found three days later by government troops (pg 125). On 8 October 1967, Che Guevara was taken prisoner and summarily executed the following day (pg 126). The bodies of all 33 fallen ELN guerrillas would then be disappeared by government troops and would not be found for nearly 30 years, when retired Bolivian general Mario Vargas Salinas confessed to Jon Lee Anderson the true location of Che Guevara's remains (pg 132).
As late as 2005, the people of Vallegrande, near the site where Tania was killed and where her remains were last seen, still held a special Mass every Sunday for Tania the guerrilla (pg 138). Until the dissolution of the GDR in 1990, there existed more than 200 juvenile brigades and "feminist" groups with the name Haydée Tamar Bunke Bider. Day care centers and elementary schools also bore her name in the GDR (pg 261). Today, with the temporary triumph of imperialism in Germany, none of these are still around. In Cuba, up until 1998, there were many collectives and various other institutions with either the name Tamara Bunke or Tania the guerrilla. And in Bolivia, the name Tania remains very popular for girls. In Nicaragua and Chile there also existed until 1998 many institutions and organizations with any variety of Tania's names and aliases (pg 261).
It was Tania's mother's last wish that Tania's remains be laid to rest alongside her fallen comrades whenever she was found. On 30 December 1998 Haydée Tamara Bunke Bider; alias Maria Iriarte; alias Vitorria Pancini; alias Laura Gutierrez Bauer; alias Tania the guerrilla finally arrived to the Ernesto Che Guevara Memorial in Santa Clara, Cuba, where she remains today (pg 273).
The role of wimmin in the annals of revolutionary struggle are not confined to a few noteworthy names such as Tania the guerrilla. From the Maoist struggle of the Naxalbari currently playing out outside the cities and urban areas of India, where guerrilla wimmin battalions and guerrilla units led by wimmin are some of the most feared by government troops, to the overwhelming amount of leadership positions held by wimmin in the Communist Party of Peru (aka "Shining Path") in the era of Gonzalo, to the national liberation struggles of the internal semi-colonies of the U.$. empire, wimmin will remain a vital component in the struggle for socialism-communism — this is what Mao meant when he said "wimmin hold up half the sky."
Indeed, the most effective road forward has already been paved. Revolutionary accomplishments should be viewed as the product of many peoples' collective labor and not just a select few. Anyone attracted to the Focoist theory of revolution need only look at the hystories of oppressed peoples' movements everywhere and learn from practice. What has been more successful – Maoism or Focoism? The relationship between mass movements and the individuals leading them is a dialectical one and neither can carry out the task of revolution without the other.
The vast majority of the governments in the world lack popular support because they serve the oppressive interests of U.$./European/Japanese imperialism. Popular elections in Palestine (for Hamas) and Honduras (for Zelaya) have been rejected by the United $tates, who put their chosen leaders in power. Meanwhile, Afghanistan and Iraq are the most hypocritical examples of U.$. "democracy building." A decade of military occupation, with all the murders, secret prisons and torture that entails, and even the imperialists can't claim any victory. Iraq has split into multiple states, all of which are engaged in an ongoing hot war. And a recent U.$. government audit of the $1 billion dollars spent in Afghanistan over 10 years concludes that they have been largely unsuccessful in establishing "the rule of law," not to mention "democracy."(1)
Of course, that's not to say that certain imperialist interests have not been served in these projects. A destabilized Third World nation is certainly better than a unified one, because the inherent interests of the Third World are opposed to those of the imperialist nations. Any successful organization of Third World nations to serve their own interests is a blow against imperialism. And the ongoing wars grease the gears of the military industrial complex.
Looking at the Middle East, West Africa or Central America, we cannot say that the oppressed nations are winning. But the objective conditions for successful resistance are certainly there and developing. Our strategic confidence in the victory of the proletarian nations over the imperialist nations comes from these objective conditions, principally that the proletariat nations far outnumber the imperialist ones.
Honduras: Mass Protests and Collective Farming
10 July 2015 — tens of thousands of Hondurans marched in the capital of Tegucigalpa with torches held high to call for the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernandez.(2) These protests have been going strong for seven weeks, and they are the continuation of a six-year struggle against the forces behind a coup d'etat backed by the United $tates in 2009.
In this same period a movement to seize land by collectives of campesinos has been ongoing. These collectives are highly organized and participate politically in the national assemblies behind the mass protests. In the countryside, these collectives have provided improved housing, education and pay for their members. They are class conscious, and addressing gender contradictions as well. The documentary Resistencia (2015) shows the regular harassment and assassinations these collectives face.(3) One community had all their houses bulldozed while attending a rally in Tegucigalpa, yet they pull together and rebuild, as one campesino says, because they have nowhere else to go. While some collectives seem to have armed guards, generally they depend on non-violent resistence at this time.
The United $tates recently deployed 280 Marines to Central America, with most going to Honduras as part of their ongoing militarization of the country in face of this continued mass resistance.(2) Meanwhile, many of the top military personnel who are allied with the large landowners in Honduras have been trained in the terrorist training camp known as the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia.(3) For decades, graduates of this school have carried out the most atrocious and brutal military campaigns in Central America on behalf of U.$. interests. Today, Honduras is considered the murder capital of the world.
Imperialists Slaughter Yemenis in Desperation
The United $tates has been waging low-intensity warfare in Yemen since shortly after 11 September 2001. In that time they have carried out over 100 drone strikes in the country.(4) In mid-May of 2015, U.$. troops and ambassadors were pulled out of the country following a popular insurgency that threw out the U.$. puppet regime of Abdedrabbo Mansour Hadi in late March. Hadi has since remained outside of Yemen with no sign that he will be able to return.
Since the removal of Hadi, an intensified bombing campaign in Yemen has been described as a "Saudi-led" effort, yet U.$. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken is behind the coordination center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and the United $tates expedited weapons deliveries to their ally who they've already provided with a strong, modernized military.
On 6 July 2015 over 30 civilians were killed when invaders shot a missile into a small market in the village of Al Joob. Other recent strikes in the region killed 30 in Hajjah, and 45 just north of Aden.(5) "In addition to some 3,000 Yemenis killed since March, the war has also left 14,000 wounded and displaced more than a million people, according to the [United Nations]."(6) Close to 13 million are lacking food due to the war and the blocking of shipments into Yemen by the imperialist-led coalition. Meanwhile preventable diseases like dengue, malaria and typhoid are spreading.(6)
Like the people of Honduras, these horrific conditions leave the people of Yemen with no choice but to keep fighting. In April, "19 Yemeni political parties and associations rejected the UN Resolution 2216 [an attempt to appease the resistance], stating that it encourages terrorist expansion, intervenes in Yemen's sovereign affairs, violates the right of self-defense by the Yemeni people and emphasized the associations' support of the Yemeni Army."(7) In June, Najran tribes, in a Saudi border region, declared war against the Saudi regime because of the Saudis killing innocent people. This occurred after the House of Saud attempted to bribe tribal leaders to support their war efforts in Yemen.(8)
Yemen's relationship to Saudi Arabia is similar to those of Mexico and Central America to the United $tates. Yemen was once a nominally socialist state after a Marxist-inspired national liberation army took control after British colonialism ended in the region. So like Central America, Yemen is no stranger to socialism and Marxism. Yet, while militarily conditions are more advanced throughout the Middle East, we do not see the class-conscious subjective political forces that exist in places like Honduras.
Yemen risks falling into inter-proletarian conflict as has been ongoing in Syria and Iraq. Yet, reports from the ground indicate a strong recognition that the ultimate blame for their plight falls on the United $tates (this is true in Honduras as well). Chaos does bring opportunity for the objective forces of proletarian class interest to rise to prominence. While conditions are dire in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, they lend themselves to building dual power and ultimately delinking from imperialism, which is what the oppressed nations must do to improve their conditions. While there are multiple competing powers in Syria and Iraq right now, no sustainable dual power can develop that is not built on the class unity of the exploited classes as exists in Honduras. At the same time, dual power must be defended, and the imperialists will always respond to efforts at delinking with military intervention. It is this military power that is lacking in Honduras to make their collectivization efforts sustainable.
These are just some of the hotly contested areas of the world today. The battle is between the imperialists and the exploited majority. While the imperialists are the dominant force today, the exploited majority are the rising aspect of this contradiction. As they rise in more regions of the world, they undercut capitalist profits and imperialist militaries become overextended. That is how the exploited majority will become victors and gain control over their own destiny.
Book Review: Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and their Godfathers By Anabel Hernandez 2014
Anabel Hernandez exposes the biggest drug organization: The U.$. and Mexican government. Business men, and all branches of the government. Although she doesn't dig deeper into the Amerikan agencies like FBI, DEA, DHS, ICE, etc., she does point out to the involvement of the CIA in the drugs-arms trade in Central America during the civil wars focused on destroying the communist movements.
Unlike other "conspiracy theory" books, Hernandez backs up the facts in her book with evidence and information newly open and available to most. Recent scandals of money laundering by banks like HSBC, HSMX, Bank of Amerika, etc only reinforce the evidence Hernandez presents in her book. The main criminals are those who benefit from this politico-social-economic capitalist system.
As someone that grew up in the poorest section of Mexican society I can say that this book is the most revealing one I've ever read regarding the sad situation in Mexico, especially when speaking of the so-called "War on Drugs." Besides highly recommending this book to everyone and especially my co-nationals; I want to make sure that everyone is aware of the stupid idolization some people fall to. These "drug-lords" are part of the system too. They are working together. As Roberto Saviano puts it in the book foreword,
"Narco-land is not only an essential book for anyone willing to look squarely at organized crime today. Narcoland also shows how...capitalism is in no position to renounce the mafia. Because it is not the mafia that has transformed itself into a modern capitalist enterprise - it is capitalism that has transformed itself into mafia. The rules of drug trafficking that Hernandez describes are also the rules of capitalism."
People in the poor countries, like Mexico, get pulled to crime out of necessity, no arguing about that. But once some of these people get ultra-rich, or just rich, they become part of the problem. These people have billions of dollars not just millions, and rather than use this to educate and arm the people, they use it to buy private planes, yachts, mansions and party and celebrate with the elites at the businesses and governments.
In one way these drug lords are depicted as "bad" by the capitalist government, and society. In another they are admired and discretely shown as a roll model via brainwashing to the youth and uneducated, in the movies (Scarface), TV series (Breaking Bad), and so-called documentaries (Gangland), among many other sources.
Hernandez says "It has to stop [the Mexican drug-political system], and the only ones who can stop it are ordinary citizens... It will only end when Mexican society unites agains this immense 'mafia.' That means overcoming fear and apathy, and above all the tacit assumption that things can not be any different." It's up to us to be more political conscious and do what we must. Whether "Drug-Lords" or "capitalists," they are the same ideology. Meanwhile kids are hungry and lack clothes and education, the most basic needs.
Book also available in Spanish, as "Los Señores del Narco," de Anabel Hernandez.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This book review makes an important point about class analysis and identifying our friends and enemies. While the First World lumpen, individuals who may get pulled into small time drug dealing, are a class that as a whole we can hope to win to the side of revolution, the drug lords have moved out of this class, if they were ever a part of it. They function as a comprador bourgeoisie, profiting off the suffering of their people and working hand in hand with the imperialists. Just because the drug trade is supposedly illegal does not change this reality. And as this review points out, the governments that have outlawed drugs are among the biggest players in drug dealing. What is legal and what is criminal under capitalism is about politics, not about justice or humyn rights.
Che Guevara, A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson Grove Press Books 1997
From de-classed aristocrat, to social vagabond, to communist revolutionary and legend, Che Guevara, A Revolutionary Life takes us from Che's early beginning as a sickly kid with a tremendous appetite for reading to his miserable last days in the Bolivian mountains trying to spark a revolution. As far as biographies of political figures go this one is truly exceptional as Jon Lee Anderson does an outstanding job of focusing this book not on Che the individual but on Che the devoted servant of the people. There are just so many aspects and stages of Che's life which this book covers that I already know I won't have enough space to cover it all. Therefore I will stick to covering not so much what we already know about Che but what hasn't yet been fully understood about him.
With that said, let us travel back in time to Argentina circa World War II, a country caught between Amerikan imperialism and a rising fascist influence. Ernesto "Che" Guevara was first turned on to politics as a young child through his friendships with several other children whose parents were Spanish migrants fleeing the Spanish Civil War. Che's family was also apparently very active in Argentina's petty bourgeois political circles. As a result of all these factors Che soon became semi-political himself, proudly joining the youth wing of Accion Argentina (Argentine Action), a pro-Allied solidarity group.(p. 23) However, he wouldn't really begin developing a critical view of the world until his teenage years when he was shaped further by the political turmoil in his own country as well as by his Spanish émigré friends who had a measurable influence in his life. Years later they would all belong to local anti-fascist youth cells formed by Argentine students organizing against the militant youth wing of the pro-Nazi Alianza Libertadora Nacionalista (National Liberation Alliance).(p. 33) Besides this political organizing the rest of Che's high school years were spent devouring every book he could get his hands on, including Karl Marx's Das Kapital. Che later revealed to his second wife years later that at the time of reading Das Kapital he couldn't understand a thing. Of course this would all change.
After graduating from high school he began to study philosophy, both inside and outside of college. He took engineering classes and enrolled in medical school. He also became fascinated with psychology. It was during this time that he began studying Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. Yet during this time and the year that followed he continued to avoid any serious political participation. Paradoxically, however friends and family remember that Che began to debate politics with different organizations as well as with his family who were all very political, as if he was beginning to put his reading to the test.(p. 50)
During one of these discussions Che made his first anti-imperialist condemnation of the United $tates, accusing them of having imperial designs in Korea.(p. 50) It was not until his trips up and down South and Central America that Che Guevara would start to become radicalized. And it wasn't books that did it, but "the injustice of the lives of the socially marginalized people he had befriended along his journeys."(p. 63) It was also during this time that Che's criticism and hatred for the United $tates began to grow, as now more than at any prior time in his life he was convinced that it was Amerikan imperialism that was the root cause of all of [email protected] America's problems.(p. 63)
Through subsequent trips up and down the Americas Che met various Marxist intellectuals he had a high opinion of because they were "revolutionary."(p. 118) In addition, he began to openly identify with a political cause, aligning himself and working within the leftist government of Arbenz in Guatemala. Also, very interesting to note that during this time Che began an ambitious project to write what would have been his first book titled The Role of the Doctor in Latin America(p. 135), a project he would unfortunately never finish due to his preoccupation with other revolutionary activities. A shame too as the ideas outlined for his book apparently dealt with the role of doctors during times of revolution, and one can't help but draw parallels with Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth written after, but around the same period of revolutionary upsurge in the Third World. Wretched not only deals with the anti-colonial struggle in Africa, but the role of the revolutionary psychiatrist.
As part of his preparation for this book, Che found it necessary "to take his knowledge of Marxism further, as he deepened his struggle of Marx, Engels, Lenin and the Peruvian Jose Carlos Marategui"(p. 136) founder of the Peruvian Communist Party which decades later would develop the Maoist Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). He also discovered Mao Zedong and read about the Chinese communist revolution, ascertaining that their road to socialism had been different than the Soviet Union's.(p. 136) Guevara's resolve as a revolutionary would only become steeled in the ensuing chaos that followed the CIA-backed coup against the Arbenz government. This is also when the CIA first took notice of Che starting "one of the thickest (files) in the CIA's global records."(p. 159)
After Guatemala, Che fled to Mexico where his political destiny would become sealed after meeting the leaders of the July 26th Movement after their failed focoist attack on a Cuban military base. The leaders were Fidel and Raul Castro. Soon thereafter, the trio, along with a band of other Cuban exiles, left Mexico and began their historic guerrilla war against the Batista dictatorship. Their point of unification was that "Batista was little more than a pimp, selling off their country to degenerate foreigners..."(p. 170) But physical training and marksmanship wasn't enough for Che in preparation to liberate Cuba. Confident that the revolution would succeed, Che intensified "his study of economics, he embarked on a cram course of books by Adam Smith, Keynes and other economists, boned up on Mao and Soviet texts..."(p. 189) Once in the Sierra Maestra Che kept up his studies as he wanted to have a firm grasp of political and economic theory.(p. 189)
After exhibiting exemplary fighting and leadership skills Fidel made Che his "chief of staff." After the guerrilla victory, and among many other accomplishments and activities, Che concentrated on consolidating the initial revolutionary power base — the new Cuban military. Like Mao, Che sought to "raise the cultural level of the army." In addition to basic literacy and education, the new military academy under Che was designed to impart political awareness to the troops.(p. 384) He even helped start Verde Olivio (Olive Green), a newspaper for the revolutionary armed forces.(p. 385)
Che was also made President of Cuba's National Bank. Indeed, Che Guevara was fully immersed in trying to build up Cuba's independent socialist economy. He recognized that in order to completely liberate itself from imperialist dependency, the Cuban economy would have to break free from the sugar industry which subsumed Cuba, turning it into a one-crop fiefdom. Cuba would also have to industrialize. Che was also for agrarian reform believing that the peasants who worked the land should have more control and reap more from it. Fidel had similar ideas on agrarian reform but not as far reaching as Che's. As a matter of fact, a thorn of contention between Che and Fidel was Che's strong belief that in order to succeed as a free and independent socialist state, Cuba would have to develop its own productive forces and should bow to no one, while Fidel preferred to play various imperialist powers off of one another in order to receive assistance in modernization and military equipment. And while Che would ultimately, though not always, come to echo Fidel's line on modernization, this seemed to be more because of Che's position as a head of state and diplomat.
To Che's credit however he was the principal architect in designing Cuba's economy and re-arranging the military prior to the Soviet Union's involvement on the island. Many just don't realize how much influence and power Che had in Cuba and that the creation of the many progressive institutions in Cuba can be directly attributed to Che's influence on Fidel and Raul. And while Fidel would name Raul as his political successor, it was Che that many noted as Fidel's true right-hand man despite his not even being a native Cuban.
One also gets the sense from reading this book that after the initial seizure of power, and as the political situation worsened for Cuba on an international level, Fidel trusted no one else in certain situations and so he ceded many matters of domestic and foreign policy to Che who had a better grasp of political economy, diplomacy and military affairs. This was the period in which the USSR, which had already taken the capitalist road, began to take notice of Che, not only because of his influence, but because of his strong peasant leanings and independent initiative, for which they would begin labeling him pejoratively as a "radical Maoist." Che denied being a Maoist, but actions speak louder than words.
According to this book Che made two major criticisms of the Chinese Communist Party. The first was in accusing China of playing hardball with their rice for sugar assistance, accusing China of trying to starve Cuba. The second criticism was in berating China for not doing more to aid the Vietnamese in their struggle against Amerikan imperialism. Besides these criticisms it was very well known that Che had a high degree of unity with China which he very much revered for having a "higher socialist morality" than the Soviets, who he would increasingly and with frequency severely criticize over the remainder of his life. Among other things Che criticized the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for their bourgeois lifestyles which he witnessed first hand. More importantly, he later publicly condemned the Soviet Union for what he deemed collusion against Cuba with the United $tates. Later Che would hold up China's socialist revolution "as an example that has revealed a new road for the Americas."(p. 490) Furthermore, after returning from one of his trips to China, Che was "invigorated" with a new sense and deepened understanding of socialism, replicating some of China's volunteer work brigades. He called these programs "emulacion comunista" (communist emulation).(p. 503)
Nearing his departure from Cuba for the last time Che began two more books which like Role of the Doctor he never finished: Philosophical Notes and Economic Notes. The latter being an extended critique of the Soviet Manual of Political Economy. On the eve of his final trek into the Bolivian mountains he sent an outline of the text to the budgetary finance system (BFS) for review indicating that he was ready to put his anti-Soviet line on political economy into practice (Guevara was the head of the BFS). According to the author, what Che had in mind was "a new manual on political economy better applied to modern times, for use by developing nations and revolutionary societies in the Third World."(p. 696) Furthermore, according to Anderson who interviewed former members of the BFS who read Che's critique, Che wrote in the manual that the USSR and the Eastern Bloc were doomed to return to capitalism if they didn't reform their economies."(p. 697) Apparently these documents were left to a comrade who never found the time to push for publication in the increasingly social imperialist dominated Cuba. Today they remain in Cuba locked away along with other of Che's documents, which Fidel deemed too sensitive to publish.(p. 697)
In the end and throughout his career it is very well known that Che was a focoist and was killed because of his ultra-left and idealized version of what a popular war looked like. Yet I was surprised to find out that Che's war strategy for [email protected] America was somewhat similar to Mao Zedong and Lin Bao's conception of global "Peoples War" for the Third World. As Che pointed out in Guerrilla Warfare: A Method, the liberation of the Americas from Amerikan hegemony could only come about through a virtual united front of guerrilla and other peasant forces that would use the Andean mountains which stretch from the top of South America to the bottom as a series of revolutionary base areas which they would use to attack the cities and urban zones of [email protected] American countries, slowly but surely wresting control of one country after another until all of [email protected] America was free. This is akin to the village-encircle-city strategy of Lin and Mao.
The story of Che Guevara and his iconic image has not yet been forgotten by revolutionaries today, as it continues to inspire us in our own struggles. It is truly a pity that Che succumbed to his focoist beliefs. His story should not only serve as an example as to the type of revolutionaries we should aspire to become, but should also serve as an example of what can happen if we pick up the gun too soon. Focoism has taken away too many good comrades, and in Che Guevara it took away a great comrade! Let it not take one more. So on this day the forty-seventh anniversary of the death of Che Guevara, (9 October 2014) and the day commemorating and honoring Che, "The Day of the Heroic Guerrilla" (8 October 2014) let us raise the red banner of revolution just as Che continuously raised it and died holding it. Let us raise the red banner for the proletariat, for our lumpen and for our nations! Let us be like Che! Seremos Como el Che!
Much hype and media attention has been brought by the murder of the runner up of the Miss Universe, Miss Venezuela. News pundits like to point out that Venezuela had over 25,000 murders last year and is the world's murder capital. The killing of any person through murder and greed is sad and tragic, but what the media fails to talk about is Amerika's own murder rate.
Statistics for 2010-2011 from the FBI's Crime in the U.S. report has murder and negligent manslaughter at 14,612. This is below the 24,000 murders in Venezuela, but it doesn't account for murders committed by the U.$. armed forces around the globe. In the United States the number of forcible rapes for 2010-2011 was 85,593. This does not account for non-reported rapes as well as rapes in the military.
The government-mouthpiece media in the U.$. viciously portrays other country's problems and flaws in order to keep the prying eyes of the world off the United $tates.
People the world over should strive to end crime in their communities. But most importantly people should understand that the grandfather of all criminals is the imperialist system here in Amerika.
El Salvador has one of the world's highest homicide rates, and marginalization runs deep causing orphaned children from disintegrated households, and extreme poverty. The Salvadorian government has brought gang members to the table to negotiate and find temporary solutions for ending the violence, and eventually a "definitive pacification." A peace treaty between Mara Salvatrucha-13 and Barrio 18 has dropped the homicide rate, in a country with a population of 6 million, to 5 down from 14 daily. "Our conclusion is that the crime is only an expression of a much deeper social problem," says Raul Mijango, who is an ex-guerrilla who fought against the government in El Salvador's Civil War, and is also a former legislative deputy of the government established after the Civil War, he's helping broker the deal.(1) Among the gangs' primary demands was a transfer of ranking leaders from max to low security prisons, where family visits are permitted and limited rehabilitation programs offered. He says gang members are subject to worse-than-usual treatment in El Salvador prisons. Jeannette Aguilar, director of the University Institute of Public Opinion in San Salvador says, "...it's a golden opportunity for the country to advance." Some say they need to treat the roots of the problem: marginalization, education, and a lack of economic opportunity.
While El Salvador is working with the gangs on a "peace process," the United Snakes slithers in the mix and designates the Mara a transnational criminal organization and imposes financial sanctions on the gang. El Salvador's president called this label "exaggerated." In reference to the "gangs" in question, Mijango says "...you don't come across a gangster with five bulletproof trucks and armed men — you just don't see it. You see a bunch of kids trying to figure out how to make it. It's a different reality..." Some analysts argue by doing such, the United $nakes could sabotage the peace process. Economic opportunity is crucial to a sustainable peace process, yet it is almost impossible for gang members there to get jobs.
Comrades, why would they put financial sanctions on them at the exact time that El Salvador is pushing for peace in their country? Could it be the United $nakes is purposely trying to compromise this "peace treaty" in order to keep the country in chaos? If these gang members get educated, get jobs, and contribute to their country's development, maybe, just maybe, they would start taking over the jobs, and undermining investments that U.$. imperialism has its tentacles wrapped around. In my personal opinion, the United $nakes is looking after its interest and long-term investments in the region for capital accumulation and political hegemony, by purposely trying to compromise the peace treaty between Salvadorian "gangs!"
MIM(Prisons) adds:We agree with the conclusion this comrade makes. As we pointed out in our article marking the one-year anniversary of the peace treaty in El Salvador, the United $tates has its bloody finger prints all over the state of affairs in Central America. The "civil war" that led to mass migration to Los Angeles and the formation of the lumpen organizations engaged in the peace treaty was financed by U.$. imperialism to eliminate people who were not a part of the imperialist system.
Just this week, Efraín Ríos Montt, former dictator of Guatemala, became the first head of state in the Americas to face trial for genocide. This U.$.-trained-and-financed puppet was part of a parallel war against communist guerrillas and the masses of indigenous people in Guatemala in the same time period, the 1980s. While there was armed resistance to the imperialists, 93% of those killed by the state's repression were civilians. The trial this week came to a halt when information about current president Otto Pérez Molina's role in ordering mass executions came to light, signaling that the the power structure in that country has not left U.$. hands.(2) In both El Salvador and Guatemala in the 1980s, tens of thousands of mostly indigenous people, mostly Mayans, were slaughtered by the U.$. imperialists to prevent them from achieving their goals of land reform and economic socialization.
Amerikans try to demonize MS-13 and Barrio 18 and other lumpen organizations (LOs) as killers. In reality, the Amerikans literally trained the genocidal killers of Central American in their "School of the Americas" in Fort Benning, Georgia. They then spent millions of dollars to provide them with military equipment to murder tens of thousands of people. After creating war in the region for decades, it is no surprise that the Amerikans are now intervening to interrupt this peace effort.
Another prisoner in Tejaztlán writes: To me the most relevant question this article raises for the U.$. Lumpen prison population is the "peace treaty." These two LOs have had a bloody feud that has racked the violent death toll to the thousands. If peace is possible for them, there is no excuse wut so ever why the petty-penitentary-plex and tribal warfare going on here amongst ourselves cannot be stopped.
Chiefly, i'm referring to the plex going on in the Texas prison colonies. To everybody "puttin on for they city," i'm barking at the families, yall know who yall are. Sum gotta give, we ain't getting nowhere with this petty-plex. We've allowed hate and violence towards each other to be the basis of our unity in relation to one another. So long as we allow this petty-plex for who has the most dominance and influence on these ranchos, and so long as we allow that hate and violence against each other to dictate our relations to one another, our identity, and our collective consciousness, we'll never truly understand the base of our plex and our common condition. Wut material forces have given birth to and will facilitate the intensification of this plex i'm speaking against? Can anybody explain to me wut it is, the base of it? For all those engaged and involved, yall know who yall are and who this slug is addressed to, and yall know exactly wut plex i'm referring to.
I recently withdrew my allegience to one of these LOs comprising the biggest in Texas, because talk of peace is considered weak, and nobody seems to understand wut's at stake, or the genocide we're committing against each other. I now stand alone in an environment where lack of affiliation renders you amongst the weakest, with no say so for even the most trivial of things such as wut channel the pacifier goes on and sometimes with no place to sit even to be pacified. I feel like Che in his farewell note to the Cubanos, criticizing myself for not being a better soldado, leader, and spokesman. But as i lay down the banner of tribalism, i will lift the flame of revolutionary nationalism, striving to better my understanding of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, and applying the dialectic science to the material world around me, challenging the old to build new perceptions, which shape our relations, and define our reality. For those of us lumped together in these ranchos, it starts with you and me individually as biological men assuming responsibility. Let's get it right. For those engaged in the peace initiatives between Centro Americano LOs, from the comandante to the soldado, our efforts at nation building do not go unnoticed. Don't allow the prospects of reintegration and cohesion to be sabotaged due to foreign interests. Too much is at stake. To Sanchez of Homies Unidos en Los Angeles who recently had federal RICO charges dismissed... stay stiff homie!
7 March 2013 — Today marks the 1-year anniversary of a truce between two rival lumpen organizations (LOs) in El Salvador, Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha-13. The truce has its origins inside Salvadoran prisons, where secret meetings were mediated by members of the Church, and facilitated by the Salvadoran government. The result was a shuffling around of LO members to different prisons, and a reduction of the homicide rate in El Salvador from 14 per day to 5.(1)
Without getting too deep into the origins of Barrio 18 and Mara Salvacrucha-13 (MS-13), it is significant to note that they both originated in Los Angeles, California (Barrio 18 in the 1950s-60s, MS-13 in the 1980s). Barrio 18 was originally made up of Mexican nationals but adapted its recruiting base as Latinos of other backgrounds migrated to southern California. MS-13 emerged from refugees of the civil war in El Salvador who had congregated in Los Angeles. In the 1990s, policy changes in the U.$. government led to the deportation of thousands of LO members back to their home countries, where their respective LOs were not yet established. In El Salvador, both groups took off.
The political climate in the 1990s in El Salvador was marked by an end to the civil war in 1992. Not surprisingly, the local conditions contributed to the ease of recruitment for these LOs. One of the Barrio 18 members who participated in the peace talks, Carlos Mojica, told the Christian Science Monitor "the streets were left filled with weapons, orphaned children, conditions of extreme poverty, disintegrated households."(2) These are ripe conditions for the proliferation of street organizations. When youth have no support and adults have no jobs, they must turn to other means for survival.
Change of Heart
Some cite an incident in June 2011 as a peak in the violence of these two organizations, which was a reality check for many. Barrio 18 has been blamed by the Salvadoran government and many citizens for a bus burning which killed at least 14 people in Mejicanos, San Salvador. This bus burning received media attention worldwide, and was accompanied by a bus shooting the same evening which killed 3 people. All the targets of this violence were reported to be unaffiliated citizens and travelers.
Others cite time and persynal experience as what changed their minds about violence. In the United $tates, many, if not most, LO members age out into the labor aristocracy or petty-bourgeoisie. But this isn't an option in El Salvador which is not an exploiter country with a bought-off labor aristocracy. Members who would otherwise be aging out of the LO if they were U.$. citizens, instead see an imperative need to change the conditions for themselves and younger generations.(2) MS-13 member Dany Mendez told BBC News "I have lost too many friends and relatives in the violence. We don't want another war because we are thinking about our children."(3)
Of course many activists in the United $tates, including MIM(Prisons) and signatories of the United Front for Peace in Prisons, see a need to end lumpen-on-lumpen violence in this country. But it's clear that conditions here are much better than in El Salvador in that a significant portion of people can leave their days of wylin' out in their past and move on to join the oppressor classes. The material conditions which lead to movement of the lumpen class in the United $tates is explored in our forthcoming book. How much these differences in material conditions affects the movement in this country toward peace between lumpen organizations will be determined by those of us working for this peace.
The peace agreement between MS-13 and Barrio 18 has not been touted as an end to the violence forever, but instead is framed as "a break in the violence so the various stakeholders can work out long-term solutions."(4) Since the beginning, the peacemakers have been calling on the Salvadoran government to generate jobs and work with former and current LO members on developing skills that will help them make a living without relying on violence.
Last month, a program was initiated by U.$. Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with Salvadoran businesses and non-governmental organizations, in a purported effort to prevent youth from joining LOs in the first place. They claim this program has nothing to do with the truce, and have no intention of helping people who have already chosen or been forced to join a lumpen organization.(5) Considering the long history of U.$. neocolonialism in Central America, it is not surprising that U$AID is putting their 2 cents in. Time will tell the long-term effects of this $42 million investment, but we can safely assume it will amount to manipulation of the Salvadoran people by the United $tates government.(6)
After one solid year, the truce has withstood everyone's doubts and has not been broken. If the government is not going to step up to help prevent the violence, then the LOs will have to organize to do it themselves. One of the principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons is Independence, which is just as important in El Salvador where the United $tates has dominated politics and the economy. We see today where U.$. intervention has gotten them thus far. MS-13 and Barrio 18 members know what their communities need better than U.$. investors do, and they should be supported in their efforts to change. It is our strong suspicion that those looking to change the conditions in which they live in any substantive way will eventually find that an end to capitalism itself is the order of the day.
One such organization which is supporting the peace treaty in El Salvador is Homies Unidos, which has chapters in Los Angeles and El Salvador. Alex Sanchez is the director of Homies Unidos in LA, and in recent history has been targeted by the FBI for harassment and detainment.(7) The bogus charges were finally dropped last month after restricting his ability to work for years. We tried to get in touch with Homies Unidos to gather more information on the real effects of the peace treaty on the ground, and what more is needed to maintain and advance the peace, but unfortunately we have not heard back.
Harry E. Vanden and Mark Becker editors and translators José Carlos Mariátegui: an Anthology (Monthly Review Press, 2011), 480 pgs, $29.95 paperback
The recent growth spurt among the various [email protected] nations here in the United $tates has begun to turn the spotlight on the various peoples and movements within these nations. Although the [email protected] nation has long resisted Amerikan occupation in various ways, the left wing of white nationalism has, until recently, pretty much neglected any acknowledgement of the [email protected] nation. Recently, with the help of an upsurge in the war on [email protected], with the state of Arizona spearheading this war, some in the Amerikan left circles have begun to rediscover the communist theory and struggles that have been coming out of Latin America for about a hundred years. The new book José Carlos Mariátegui: An Anthology adds to this budding interest in revolutionary [email protected] This book is a compilation of Mariátegui's writings.
José Carlos Mariátegui's Life
Mariátegui was a Peruvian communist who upheld revolutionary nationalism within the context of Marxist theory, but not in a mechanical way. He developed a line based on the material conditions of Peru, and thus Latin America, as most of Latin America was feudal or semi-feudal and developing at roughly the same pace. And like Mao would later come to say, Mariátegui believed Marxist thought should be undogmatic. In fact, Mao was known to have read Mariátegui as well.
In a time when Marxists believed the peasantry to be a potential revolutionary force, before Mao proved this theory to be true, Mariátegui developed a groundbreaking theory of the role of peasants in the revolution.
Mariátegui was born in the small town of Moguera, Peru on 14 July 1894. Born in poverty and crippled as a child, Mariátegui began life in an uphill battle. Like most people in Latin America, school was a luxury Mariátegui could not afford and so he had to work with an elementary school education in order to help contribute financially to his family. At 15 he began work at La Prensa newspaper. He advanced from copy boy to writing and editing. He soon learned to make a living as a journalist while at the same time using this journalistic talent for propaganda work.
Starting as a teenager, Mariátegui began to develop socialist ideas and began writing about student rights and labor struggles. He and a friend even founded two short-lived newspapers as teenagers, one called Nuestra Epoca (Our Epoch) and La Razón (The Fault). Although at this time Mariátegui had not developed the deep Marxist theory he was later known for, it does show his early consciousness and the beginning of his revolutionary thought in his articles. So much so that in his early 20s he was sent in exile to Europe by the Peruvian government and charged by the Peruvian dictator Agusto B. Luguia as an "information agent." This reminded me of how, in the United $tates, once prisoners begin to develop and define their revolutionary thought, they too are placed in "exile" — Security Housing Units.
It was while Mariátegui was in Europe that his study and thought deepened and became socialist. His four years in Italy and France were spent amidst the different communist groups active there at the time. This was where he met many people who helped shape his growth. By the time he returned to Peru in 1923 he had developed his political line significantly.
One of the things that stands out about Mariátegui in reading his anthology is that although he had a formal education only up to 8th grade, he developed into a self-educated intellectual, but an intellectual in sync with the most oppressed, an intellectual for the people in contradiction to the bourgeois intellectuals. I thought this was similar to many prisoners who, like Mariátegui, are often without a "formal" education. I myself have never attended a high school and instead educated myself in prison as an adult, seeing the importance of education, especially in the realm of advancing my nation, as well as the international communist movement more broadly. So I found this small but significant aspect of Mariátegui really inspiring and I think other prisoners will as well.
Mariátegui was confined to a wheelchair most of his adult life due to illness. This "disability" was a hinderance to his goals of making socialist revolution in Peru, but he endured; he overcame this burden and found ways to continue onward. This too relates to the conditions of the prisoner, as many may see being in prison as a hinderance to those seeking to transform their nation, to advancing society. In a way it is, however we must find ways to continue onward despite our challenges.
Back in Peru, Mariátegui launched the theoretical journal Amauta. He then founded the biweekly periodical Labor which sought to politicize the Peruvian working class, but was shut down within a year by the Peruvian government. He also published two books in his life and published numerous articles in many Peruvian periodicals. One book, La Escena Contemporánea (The Contemporary Scene), was a collection of articles he wrote for two Peruvian magazines. These articles dealt with racism, socialism and events in Peru. While in his second book, Siete Ensayos de Interpretación (Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality), he applied a Marxist analysis to the social reality of Peru and thus Latin America.
Mariátegui's theory and quantitative development soon turned to qualitative development and practice and in 1928 he formed the Peruvian Socialist Party (PSP), which was the forerunner of the Peruvian Communist Party (PCP), which led a heroic people's war in the 1980s and 1990s. Mariátegui was the first Secretary General of the PSP, which would form a Marxist trade union and would participate in Communist International-sponsored meetings. But Mariátegui's above ground party building actions were not exclusive to 'legal organizing,' he was also involved in the Peruvian underground movement. Indeed he was a sharp thorn in the side of the Peruvian government, having organized communist cells throughout Peru. The government labeled him "subversive" and threw him in prison many times — often with no charges though each time they eventually released him. He faced political repression most of his political life; surveilled and harassed by the state.
Much of his later organizing was in opposition to the U.$.-owned copper mine at "Cerro de Pasco" where he often agitated strikes around working conditions. Mariátegui died at age thirty six due to poor health.
Mariátegui's Political Line
In Mariátegui's piece "The Land Problem," he gets at something that is essential to any struggle, which is getting to the heart of a struggle, to the kernel of contradiction. He states, in part in reference to the contradictions surrounding Peru's indigenous peoples:
"We are not content with demanding the Indian's right to education, culture, progress, love and heaven. We start by categorically demanding their rights to land."(pg 69)
This demand for land cuts to the heart of a people's right. This is what separates those seeking a "reformist approach" from those seeking a more revolutionary approach. The same lesson can be gleaned by prisoners who, in many parts of the United $tates, come to this crossroad where in any struggle for prisoners' rights those actively pushing the prison movement forward MUST choose between reforms or real revolutionary demands. In Mariátegui's case he chose the more revolutionary approach — the struggle to free the land.
This demand continues in all parts of the world in contradiction to the capitalist practices of private ownership, monopolizing the land and outright stealing of land from oppressed nations. To the people of the world it is being established that Amerika's right to colonize and oppress has expired! The iron hold of capitalist tradition has been broken in the minds of many of the oppressed and time is running out for the imperialists!
In "The Land Problem," Mariátegui describes the error that most people fell into in analyzing Peru in his time. Most mechanically attempted to apply methods used in a capitalist society to Peru's semi-feudal economy. As he describes, Peru during this time was a "gamonalism" society, which was a share cropper society where the indigenous of Peru would work the land of a large land owner in return for a portion of the harvest. But due to the abuse of the colonizers, the Incan peoples saw gamonalism as a punishment, and so methods of building the infrastructure were also seen as forms of gamonalism even though pre-colonial Incans always have collectively worked on building roads or waterways. This was once a duty, simply a part of life, but under the semi-feudal existence these projects were seen by the Incan people as more abuse brought on by gamonalism and this goes to the heart of Mariátegui's line on how Peruvians cannot mechanically apply the Marxist analysis that paved the way in Europe to Peru or Latin America for that matter, as social conditions were much different and so a Marxist analysis had to be created that was specific to Latin America.(pg 115)
Peru experienced the destruction of social forms through the colonization process. But this colonialism fertilized the birth of a nation. The development of the new economic relation breathed new life into the people's resistance. This new development was behind Peru's independence revolution with Spain, it was a natural development that can be seen worldwide. It simply validates the laws of contradiction.
Mariátegui saw the distinct concrete conditions in Latin America but he understood that the peoples victory in Latin America was but a step toward a bigger picture. He wrote:
"In this America of small revolutions, the same word, revolution, frequently lends itself to misunderstanding. We have to reclaim it rigorously and intransigently. We have to restore its strict and exact meaning. The Latin American revolution will be nothing more and nothing less than a stage, a phase of the world revolution. It will simply and clearly be a socialist revolution. Add all the adjectives you want to this word according to a particular case: 'anti-imperialist', 'agrarian', 'national-revolutionary,' socialism supposes, precedes and includes all of them."(pg 128)
And so although Mariátegui fought for and developed a line for his nation he still kept the broader movement for world revolution as his compass. This is very important for those of us of the internal semi-colonies to understand that it is not just ok but necessary for us to struggle for and develop a political line for our distinct conditions living here in the belly of the beast and under the heel of the super-parasite. But at the same time we must keep the bigger picture in mind, the world movement as a compass, and grasp that liberating our nations is only the first stage in what we are ultimately struggling for.
On nationalism Mariátegui writes:
"The nationalism of the European nations ... is reactionary and anti-socialist. But the nationalism of the colonial peoples — yes, economically colonial, although they boast of their political autonomy — has a totally different origin and impulse. In these people, nationalism is revolutionary and therefore ends in socialism."(pg 175)
Mariátegui wrote these words in 1927 so this was even before Mao wrote, "thus in wars of national liberation patriotism is applied internationalism"(1) in 1938. And just like Mao, Mariátegui believed that nationalism from the oppressed nations was revolutionary and true internationalism. But the Amerikan crypto-Trotskyites today disagree with Mao and Mariátegui on this, mainly because agreeing with them on this would undermine the white privilege enjoyed by them and their allies.
Mariátegui was in fact not just aware but correctly analyzed what was taking place around the world during this time, particularly in China. Indeed, he criticized the Chinese Kuomingtang and upheld "Chinese socialism" during this time, which was the budding movement that Mao was involved with. In a polemic on China he wrote:
"And I will be content with advising him that he direct his gaze to China where the nationalist movement of the Kuomingtang gets its most vigorous impulse from Chinese socialism."(pg 175)
It is refreshing to see Mariátegui, from the Third World and under intense state repression, was able to grasp the concrete conditions and political development taking place internationally, especially in China when he had already seen Mao's camp as the correct line even before Mao's line was victorious in liberating China.
Disagreements with Mariátegui
One problem of line is what Mariátegui calls "Inca socialism." In his analysis the ancient Incas lived in what he describes as Inca socialism. There are many things wrong with this. For one, the Incas, like the other pre-Columbian societies of what is referred to as "Latin America," such as the more widely known societies like the Aztecs and Mayans, lived in communal societies. But these societies had many facets of privilege and even caste-like systems with everything from kings, priests, priestesses, laborers and slaves. Indeed, most of these larger societies like the Aztec, Mayan and Inca's operated on tribute systems where essentially the surrounding tribes that were dominated by these larger groups basically payed rent to these groups, they were taxed or they were slaughtered. So this was in no way "socialism." Sprinkled throughout his writings Mariátegui refers to a pre-Columbian "Inca Socialism" and even declares its previous existence in the Peruvian Socialist Party's 9 point programs — which he himself drafted. Point 6 states:
"Socialism finds the same elements of a solution to the land question in the livelihoods of communities, as it does in large agricultural enterprises. In areas where the presence of the yanaconazco(2) sharecropping system or small landholdings require keeping individual management, the solution will be the exploitation of land by small farmers, while at the same time moving toward the collective management of agriculture in areas where this type of exploitation prevails. But this, like the stimulation that freely provides for the resurgence of indigenous peoples, the creative manifestation of its forces and native spirit does not mean at all a romantic and anti-historical trend of reconstructing or resurrecting Inca socialism which corresponded to historical conditions completely by passed, and which remains only as a favorable factor in a perfectly scientific production technique, that is the habits of cooperation and socialism of indigenous peasants. Socialism presupposes the technique, the science, the capitalist stage. It cannot permit any setbacks in the realization of the achievements of modern civilization but on the contrary it must methodically accelerate the incorporation of these achievements into national life."
We must be grounded in materialism and approach reality how it is, not how we wish it to be. To refer to pre-Columbian societies in Latin America as "socialist" is an ultra-left deviation and thus our line becomes contaminated along with our potential for victory. The fact that Mariátegui wrote this in his party's program reveals how much he believed this to be true, and so there was some error in his line.
Furthermore, Mariátegui attempts to weld events in Europe with events in the Americas and says in a university lecture: "A period of revolution in Europe will be a period of revolution in the Americas."(pg 297) Of course world events spark arousal in the international communist movement, but to assume or claim revolution will mirror Europe or anywhere else despite material conditions is to succumb to pragmatism.
Anyone interested in the birth of Marxism in Latin America will find this book fulfilling. It takes you from Peru's indigenous anti-colonial uprisings to an analysis of indigenous peoples in Peru, to early proletarian organizing, the Peruvian pre-party, propaganda work, the creation of the first socialist party, and the creation of workers federations. It gives a complete picture of the ideas of Mariátegui, who declared himself a Marxist-Leninist, and had he lived to see the advances of Maoism would no doubt have raised its banner in Peru as well.
Brazil has instituted a program in its federal prisons to allow prisoners to earn an earlier release by reading certain books and writing reports on them. In a country with a maximum prison sentence of 30 years, they recognize the need to reform people who will be released some day. The program is interesting for us because it's hard to imagine Amerikans accepting such a program, in a country where there is no consideration for what people will do with themselves after a long prison term with no access to educational programs, and prisoners who do achieve higher education get no consideration in parole hearings.
This reform in Brazil seems to be quite limited. Only certain prisoners will be approved to participate, there is a limit to 48 days reduction in your sentence each year, and the list of books is to be determined by the state. Meanwhile, the standards applied for judging the book reports will include grammar, hand-writing and correct punctuation. Which begs the question of what are the prisoners supposed to be learning exactly? Writing skills are useful to succeed in the real world, but being able to use commas correctly is hardly a sign of reform.
In socialist China, before Mao Zedong's death, all prisoners participated in study and it was integral to every prisoner's release. Rather than judging peoples' handwriting, prison workers assessed prisoners' ability to understand why what they did was wrong, and to reform their ways. The Chinese prison system was an anomaly in the history of prisons in its approach to actually reforming people to live lives that did not harm other humyn beings through self-reflection and political study. This type of system will be needed to rehabilitate pro-capitalist Amerikans under the joint dictatorship of the proletariat of the oppressed nations. It is very different from the approaches of isolation and brute force that Amerikans currently use on the oppressed nations.
While it would be a miracle to have in the United $tates today, the Brazil program demonstrates the great limitations of bourgeois reforms of the current system. The books are to be literature, philosophy and science that are recognized as valuable to the bourgeois culture. And the standards for judging the prisoners will be mostly about rote learning. The politics that are behind such a program will determine its outcome. Without a truly socialist state as existed in China during Mao's leadership, we can never have a prison system truly focused on reforming people.