Thoughts On the Passing of Chairman Gonzalo
Manuel Rubén Abimael Guzmán Reynoso, known to the world as Chairman Gonzalo, died on September 11, 2021 after what many call an assassination. Considering that he was kept in isolation for 29 years (longer than I’ve been alive) and undoubtedly exposed to every sort of psychological and physical torture for the entirety of that period, I’m sympathetic to this characterization of his death. When a political prisoner dies, the fault is always on the State that incarcerated him. The State claims that he died of double pneumonia, consistent with exposure to COVID-19. How exactly an extremely well guarded inmate comes into contact with COVID-19 is anyone’s guess, but I do recall several accounts of prisoners exposing the use of the virus as a sort of biological weapon to target vulnerable inmates, Mumia Abu-Jamal being one of the most notable. An individual of Gonzalo’s age and health profile most likely would not survive an encounter with COVID-19, and his jailers knew this.
The bourgeois press (open and hidden) wasted no time in screaming from the rafters this news. “TERRORIST MURDERER DIES!”, “MAOIST GUERILLA LEADER DIES IN PRISON”, etc. Publications such as Jacobin scribbled all sorts of slanderous and scurrilous trash, highlighting the stated (by Gonzalo himself) excesses such as those of Lucanamarca and the dynamiting of the corpse of the open anti-Party agitator and informant Maria Elena Moyano. These admitted excesses are used by bad faith “Left” actors to paint the entire PCP as a band of murderers, sociopaths and unrepentant torturers. Strangely, there was no screaming about the revolutionary “excesses” when Fidel Castro died, the sentiment among the left was essentially 100% heartwarming tributes to his memory, save for the odd Trotskyite sect, social democrat, or dogmatist who thinks they’re a Maoist calling him a fascist. Of course, the Western Left is not known for either critical thinking skills or adherence ideological principles, settling instead for whatever eclectic mishmash makes it feel good about itself and its lack of action, so this isn’t surprising in the slightest.
Gonzalo’s death comes during the honeymoon period of social democrat Pedro Castillo, who spent his youth as a rondero (peasant militiaman) in service of the Peruvian state working against the PCP. Castillo, contrary to both social democrat/revisionist wishful thinking and Fujimorista whining, is neither a “secret” supporter of the PCP, nor a Marxist-Leninist of any type, rather, he is the latest in a line of vaguely “Left” populists who have come to power through elections in South America. Castillo was an enemy of the PCP in the 1980s, and he is an enemy of the PCP now. Castillo will happily allow Gonzalo’s body to be burned and spread in the Pacific to prevent (he thinks) his ghost and that of the Party he gave his life to from rising and toppling the Peruvian state over which he presides. Furthermore, it is time for a critical reanalysis and rethinking of the usefulness to the Communist movement of these types of leaders. When push comes to shove, they usually come out against the people’s root interests, more equitable distribution be damned. Castillo has joined the “terrorist” chorus, and if he were such a friend of the people he would release Gonzalo’s body and allow for a public funeral and burial among his comrades, in the heights of Ayacucho from which his Party sprang.
Are there criticisms of the PCP under Gonzalo’s leadership? Of course there are, there are critiques of everything under the sun, we are Marxists and adherents of the principle of critique of all that exists. But the difference between a principled Marxist critique of the type that Mao made of the USSR under the leadership of Stalin and an unprincipled, bad faith critique is that our Marxist critiques view Communist movements and struggles as, in the main, positive. It is good that the PCP existed, it is good that Chairman Gonzalo looked around at the state of his country and, out of love of his country and people, risked his life and sacrificed his freedom to organize his students and other masses to transform it through force of arms. Excesses and errors aside, his struggle and the struggle of his comrades in arms who sacrificed their lives breathed life into the Communist project at what was termed by many “the end of history” and “the end of Communism”. As the faded red flag was torn down from the Kremlin, as Deng Xiaoping turned China into imperialist cloud-cuckooland, in Peru, some comrades waited out many a cold Andean night to deliver people’s justice to many a traitor, fascist military officer, evangelical missionary smuggling in Yankee propaganda along with the Bibles, or CIA backed NGO stooge. PCP cadres did not wait around, they dared to transform through action. It is good that they did.
There are many lessons to be learned from the Peruvian struggle and experience. In addition to the works of the PCP itself, I highly recommend Kenny Lake’s piece on how the PCP was able to establish a position early on, along with this piece which features a portion covering the struggle in Lima. I also highly recommend the obituary written by the NDFP. There is a disgusting habit of revisionists and other bad faith actors to play off the “good Maoists” of the Philippines to the “bad Maoists” of Peru, and this article hopefully will put an end to that. We are all Communists, and there are no “bad” ones. Every Communist who picks up a gun in the service of the people is a good one. Every Communist who says “enough” is a good one. Gonzalo was just as good a Communist as Huey, or Joma, or Che, or anyone else, and his work and that of his Party is part of our heritage. Study it well.
“Comrade Gonzalo is a proletarian internationalist, who sought to enrich Marxism-Leninism-Maoism with the lessons drawn from the revolutionary struggle in Peru and other countries. He wanted nothing more than revolutionary advances and victories in the struggle for national liberation, democracy and socialism in various countries — and energetically contributed to various international fora to this end. He is a standard-bearer of Maoism and people’s war, one of the most vocal in asserting the universal validity of Maoism. He has enriched and preserved Maoism for a new generation of revolutionary Communists the world over.
Comrade Gonzalo’s championing of Maoism and the experience of the Peruvian revolution under his leadership have inspired countless progressives and revolutionaries, socialists and Communists in Peru and all over the world. They use Marxism, Leninism and Maoism to study Comrade Gonzalo’s theory and practice — their strengths and weaknesses, victories and mistakes, advances and retreats — with the spirit of using the lessons in new if essentially unchanged conditions in order to advance the revolutionary struggle forward to victory.”