Documentary: The People of the Shining Path

“The People of the Shining Path” is an excellent 1992 documentary that gives a sympathetic look at Sendero Luminoso and the People’s War in Peru from just before the capture of their founding leader, Chairman Gonzalo (Abimael Guzmán). The PCP seems to have declined significantly since Gonzalo’s capture, and the current state of the PCP is unclear. I am including an interesting article from the bourgeois media about the Communist Party of Peru (Sendero Luminoso) from September 18th to help bring things up to speed. See also the People’s War in Peru document archive. 

The People of the Shining Path

Peru rebel leader refuses to lay down arms

LIMA, Peru (AP) — The leader of Peru’s notorious Shining Path leftist rebels rejected an ultimatum to surrender and demanded to negotiate a political accord with the Peruvian government, in an interview aired Thursday by Peruvian broadcaster Radioprogramas.

Filomeno Cerron Cardoso, who goes by the nom de guerre “Comrade Artemio,” said the group will never lay down arms or surrender in the face of “widespread military repression” from the government.

“We completely reject the ultimatum” issued by national police chief Octavio Salazar, Artemio said in a radio broadcast originally recorded Wednesday at a local station in the Huallaga Valley where the rebels still operate.

“We still insist that what is needed is a political solution, what is needed is a general amnesty and national reconciliation,” Artemio said.

The Shining Path devastated Peru, which saw nearly 70,000 people killed from 1980 to the mid-’90s during the rebels’ efforts to impose a Maoist communist regime. It faded after its leader, Abimael Guzman, was captured in 1992, though it continues to operate in much smaller numbers on money collected for protecting the drug trade.

Artemio said his group is “taking steps toward peace,” but that President Alan Garcia’s “dictatorial” government does not want it.

“Instead it wants the peace of the cemeteries. It wants everyone dead,” he said.

The interview is Artemio’s first since he appeared in a ski mask, flanked by 70 guerrillas in a taped television interview in November 2006.

Ruling party Congressman Yonhy Lescano told Radioprogramas that a general amnesty is out of the question and reiterated that the group must lay down its arms.


6 responses to “Documentary: The People of the Shining Path

  1. This AP article is (unsurprisingly) confusing and confused.

    While I haven’t followed developments in Peru extremely closely in recent years, I know that following Gonzalo’s capture in the early 90s (along with most of the rest of the PCP – Shining Path’s central committee), he started advocating the line of struggling for a peace accord. This contradicted the line (seize power through armed struggle) he had advocated his entire political life. His abrupt change in line (along with the fact of the personality cult the party had built around him personally) led to fracturing and essentially divided the party into two. My understanding is that there are those who are still engaged in armed struggle under the name PCP (Shining Path), but there are very few of them. And there are those that continue to follow Gonzalo’s leadership and line who also as I understand continue to operate as PCP (Shining Path). I’m not sure if this is still the situation or if something has changed in the last couple/few years.

    It is totally unclear which PCP is being talked about in this article. Because the forces being talked about are apparently still armed, which would seem to indicate that they are “seguir” forces. But according to the article they are apparently calling for a peace accord (national reconciliation, amnesty, etc), which would indicate they are following Gonzalo’s political line of struggling for a peace accord, not the old line of accumulating forces to seize power. Or maybe all factions have been won to a line of ending the armed struggle, but the government doesn’t really care because the armed force of the PCP does not pose a real threat anymore and so they have no reason to negotiate with them so these forces remain armed, but struggling to end their armed struggle through negotiations. Who knows? From this article it’s totally unclear.

    It would be good if someone who has followed the PCP in recent years could clear up where things are at now, and shine some light on the confusion of this AP article.

  2. A friend who closely follows the Peruvian revolutionary movement sent me the following in response to my comment above, with permission to post it here:

    Artemio continues to uphold the negotiations line, and is allied with Gonzalo, as is just about the entire party, in one way or another. I’m sure you’re familiar with many other instances of armed struggle as a pressure tactic for negotiating, and I think Artemio’s actions should mainly be seen in that light.

    The substance of the negotiations demanded by Sendero have changed over the years, and are not now what they were in the early 1990s.

  3. Cool documentary.

  4. On the topic of Sendero, folks may be interested in a video that Rage Against the Machine made for their song Bombtrack in 1993. The video is openly pro-Sendero. It has visual commentary about Sendero throughout the video. It features the band playing inside a cage – a direct reference to Gonzalo’s ‘speech from the cage’ after his capture (there are brief clips of Gonzalo speaking from the cage in the video too). It also features footage of street battles with the police in Raucana shantytown, one neighborhood where Sendero had a strong base, as well as footage from Sendero-controlled prisons and Sendero combatants training, which may be taken from this video. The prison footage may be taken from this video, I’m not sure.

    The video is here:

  5. Some people have asked me about human rights issues in Peru related to how the PCP carried out the people’s war. Now, I don’t endorse everything the PCP ever did, and I think they committed some errors, but here’s a quote from Chairman Mao that I think is quite relevent followed by four helpful links:

    The peasants’ revolt disturbed the gentry’s sweet dreams. When the news from the countryside reached the cities, it caused immediate uproar among the gentry. Soon after my arrival in Changsha, I met all sorts of people and picked up a good deal of gossip. From the middle social strata upwards to the Kuomintang right-wingers, there was not a single person who did not sum up the whole business in the phrase, “It’s terrible!” Under the impact of the views of the “It’s terrible!” school then flooding the city, even quite revolutionary-minded people became down-hearted as they pictured the events in the countryside in their mind’s eye; and they were unable to deny the word “terrible”. Even quite progressive people said, “Though terrible, it is inevitable in a revolution.” In short, nobody could altogether deny the word “terrible”. But, as already mentioned, the fact is that the great peasant masses have risen to fulfil their historic mission and that the forces of rural democracy have risen to overthrow the forces of rural feudalism. The patriarchal-feudal class of local tyrants, evil gentry and lawless landlords has formed the basis of autocratic government for thousands of years and is the cornerstone of imperialism, warlordism and corrupt officialdom. To overthrow these feudal forces is the real objective of the national revolution. In a few months the peasants have accomplished what Dr. Sun Yat-sen wanted, but failed, to accomplish in the forty years he devoted to the national revolution. This is a marvelous feat never before achieved, not just in forty, but in thousands of years. It’s fine. It is not “terrible” at all. It is anything but “terrible”. “It’s terrible!” is obviously a theory for combating the rise of the peasants in the interests of the landlords; it is obviously a theory of the landlord class for preserving the old order of feudalism and obstructing the establishment of the new order of democracy, it is obviously a counterrevolutionary theory. No revolutionary comrade should echo this nonsense. If your revolutionary viewpoint is firmly established and if you have been to the villages and looked around, you will undoubtedly feel thrilled as never before. Countless thousands of the enslaved–the peasants–are striking down the enemies who battened on their flesh. What the peasants are doing is absolutely right, what they are doing is fine! “It’s fine!” is the theory of the peasants and of all other revolutionaries. Every revolutionary comrade should know that the national revolution requires a great change in the countryside. The Revolution of 1911 [3] did not bring about this change, hence its failure. This change is now taking place, and it is an important factor for the completion of the revolution. Every revolutionary comrade must support it, or he will be taking the stand of counter-revolution.

    Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan – “Its Terrible!” or “Its Fine!”. See also the next section of that article, The Question of “Going Too Far”.

    The Class Character of Human Rights And Freedoms from the Peru People’s Movement (MPP)

    Amnesty International: The “Human Rights” Arm of Imperialism by the MPP

    America’s Watch [now Human Rights Watch], Tool of U.S. Imperialism by the MPP

    Peru: The Truth about the “Truth Commission” by the Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru (CSRP)

  6. I am a strong supporter of communist and socialist ideology. I’ve taken part in many happenings and activities aimed at protesting for the benefit of the people, “man on the street”, because I believe there’s justice in helping those who are at need when criminal powers and goverments suppress and kill.

    But I must say I feel The Shining Path is an excelent example of how easily humans corrupt and transform the well-intended will of doing justice into “a right” to kill political opponents. By doing so, they simply replace one evil with a new evil. The will to do good spirals into a blind hatred towards anyone who shares a different point of view.
    At the end, the majority of the victims, killed, raped, mutilated, in grief, with their beloved ones taken away from them, are truly innocent.

    To members of The Shining Path and other people around the world who kill in the name of “justice”, of God, of an ideology, remember this quote from the great philosopher Francois de Voltaire: “I disagree with everything you say but I will fight till my dying day for your right to saying it!”

    Any ideology, socialist, communist, leninist etc., can only be truly succesful when it keeps this quote in mind.

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