On 11 September 2021, the international proletariat and oppressed people of the world lost one of the greatest revolutionary leaders of the last several decades. Abimael Guzmán, AKA Chairman Gonzalo, leader of the Communist Party of Peru–Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), passed away, having spent the last nearly thirty years of his life in prison. We do not know the exact cause of his death and must treat information coming from his captors with skepticism. Gonzalo had been kept isolated from the outside world, denied much contact with even his lawyer. He was suffering from health problems in the last months of his life and was denied adequate access to medical treatment.
Following the announcement of Gonzalo’s death, the bourgeois media has been busy howling in unison about the supposed carnage caused by Gonzalo through his leadership of the revolutionary people’s war that rocked Peru from 1980 through the 1990s. The reality is that the masses of Peru during that period were suffering from bitter poverty and even starvation caused by the workings of capitalism-imperialism, with the United States, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank holding Peru hostage to debt payments and mandating structural adjustment policies that further impoverished the Peruvian people. What Gonzalo’s leadership achieved was to give the Peruvian masses a means to not only fight back, but to dare to overthrow the system of capitalism-imperialism at the root of their suffering and create a whole new social order.
Born in 1934 in Mollendo, Peru, Gonzalo became a philosophy professor at the National University of San Cristóbal de Huamanga in the capital of the Ayacucho region in 1962. He was no armchair philosopher, however: by that point he was a devoted communist, and he used his university position to reestablish communist organization and to learn about the lives of the masses in Ayacucho. Gonzalo combined his love for the oppressed with a keen grasp of the greatest advances in theory and practice in the international communist movement. He firmly rejected the betrayal of communist principles by the leadership of the Soviet Union following Stalin’s death and embraced Mao Zedong’s radical innovations to the communist tradition, including the strategy of protracted people’s war in semi-feudal oppressed nations and the recognition of the persistence of class struggle under socialism. On the latter innovation, Gonzalo gained firsthand experience by visiting China during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, a mass revolutionary movement launched and led by Mao to overthrow capitalist roaders within the Communist Party and further revolutionize socialist China. He internalized the lessons of this all-out struggle, and, when capitalist roaders took power in China in 1976 following Mao’s death, Gonzalo stood firmly behind communist principles, condemning the counterrevolutionary coup and upholding Mao’s revolutionary legacy.
Beyond standing firmly on the right side of fundamental dividing lines in the international communist movement, Gonzalo also applied the lessons of the Chinese revolution to the concrete realities of Peru. He recognized the rural Indian masses of Ayacucho as a potential revolutionary force that could take advantage of its distance from the center of bourgeois power in Peru to launch a revolutionary people’s war. Gonzalo worked tirelessly to recruit his students at the university as communist cadre and ingeniously used their connections to rural communities, including when they worked as teachers in those communities after graduation, to develop an organized mass base for revolution. This process of social investigation, the recruitment and training of cadre, and the development of mass organization and struggle that began in the 1960s laid the groundwork for attacks on police stations and local oppressors when the people’s war in Peru was initiated in 1980. Ayacucho fast became a center of revolutionary struggle, with the leadership of the Communist Party of Peru (hereafter referred to as Sendero Luminoso) inspiring bold struggle and heroic sacrifice from the revolutionary masses in the face of vicious brutality by the Peruvian military.
Some notes on the history of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement and prospects for unity in the international communist movement today
by Hinton Alvarez
“…the Marxist-Leninst movement is confronted with the exceptionally serious responsibility to further unify and prepare its ranks for the tremendous challenges and momentous battles shaping up ahead.”
-Declaration of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement
Despite what certain hagiographies and posters produced in the Soviet Union and People’s Republic of China when they were socialist might have us believe, the international communist movement has never progressed with the unity of the proletariat and oppressed marching in a straight line. Instead, it’s been the moments of conflict and contradiction, often expressed in two-line struggle, that have advanced the communist movement and demarcated the revolutionary road from opportunism and revisionism. Marx and Engels waged their polemics against the utopian socialists from within the First International. Lenin and other Bolshevik revolutionaries founded the Third International (Comintern) “in clear repudiation of the bankrupt opportunist and revisionist line of the Second International,” as Jose Maria Sison wrote.1 For some sense of how sharp the debates were in the Third International, watch the movie Reds.2
The most recent attempt at forging genuine unity among communist revolutionaries internationally was the Revolutionary International Movement (RIM), active from the early 1980s to the mid 2000s. As the ruling capitalist-imperialist system is increasingly gripped by crises without a new tide of proletarian revolution to seize upon the opportunities they present, revolutionaries are taking a fresh look at the history of the RIM in order to forge new forms of unity among genuine communist revolutionaries. In particular, this article’s content was inspired by and is intended to be in conversation with comrades from India, Nepal, Italy, and Canada who have published documents, issued statements, and partaken in interviews with the aim of developing revolutionary clarity of line and in the spirit of internationalism. It’s my hope that, through a ruthlessly critical examination of our communist past, revolutionaries today can forge the higher levels of communist theory and practice so desperately needed in the world today.
The past decade has seen a rapid growth in new and a few previously existing Leftist organizations across North America, matched almost tit for tat by splits within and the dissolution of said Leftist organizations. A number of the larger, crusty old Leftist organizations have fallen apart after decades of doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. In other and overlapping cases, their ideological rot was exposed after their leadership tried to cover up rape within their organizations. To them, we say good riddance to your organizations and to the rancid revisionist ideology behind them. To the handful of crusty old Leftist organizations who managed to rebrand themselves and garner new recruits by appealing to postmodernism and dogmatic internet “communism,” we say your days are numbered. Sooner or later your new membership will by and large burn out from the same old routine or realize that they have joined opPortuniSt manipuLators who don’t tell new recruits that they’re Trotskyists.
Picking the Ripest Fruit for Harvesting a Revolutionary People is the fourth and final part in the series The Specter that Still Haunts: Locating a Revolutionary Class Within Contemporary Capitalism-Imperialism, and will appear in print in kites #4. Originally written in 2015 and published at revolutionary-initiative.com, this piece was written during the second term of the Obama administration, after the rebellions in Ferguson and Baltimore but prior to the emergence of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee. As such, it does not reflect some of the radical shifts that have taken place since then. However, its analysis of who constitutes the proletariat in the US remains accurate.
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Having laid a theoretical foundation for understanding the proletariat as a concept in part one, drawn a broad outline of changes in the capitalist-imperialist system in part two, and extracted lessons from the successes in forging a revolutionary people in recent communist people’s wars in part three, here we turn our attention to understanding who constitutes the proletariat in the United States and especially its most potentially revolutionary sections. Given the lack of any real communist pole in the US (and in most of the world), it will be crucial for those seeking to build communist organization to do so by picking the ripest fruit for harvesting a revolutionary people. Since, as argued throughout this series, it is in the processes of dispossession and proletarianization and in the social antagonisms created by the anarchic movements of capital that those most prone to revolutionary possibilities can be found, communist practice requires a keen analysis of just who those people are to be most effective.
Voices from Baltimore in the Wake of the 2015 Rebellion and Bourgeois State Intervention
In the summer of 2018, a mixture of communists and those interested in walking the revolutionary road traveled from a handful of cities across North America to meet in downtown Baltimore, Maryland for an intensive three-day social investigation into the concrete conditions of the Black proletarian masses of West Baltimore in the aftermath of the 2015 rebellion. The rebellion—a culmination of festering frustration and rage due to the dispossession that accompanies deindustrialization,1 explicit and implicit racism, the occupation of residential areas by police known for their brutality and corruption,2 a rampant drug economy, and regular violence—was sparked by the murder of 25-year-old Freddie Gray by members of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD).
Over the past year and change, a rapid succession of crises have gripped North America. The pandemic has brought premature death to over half a million people and the agonizing pain of losing loved ones to so many more. All the while, people have been forced to bear the additional hardships of social isolation, unemployment, evictions, and the despair of facing an uncertain future in which there may be no return to a state of “normal” for many. George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police was the spark that ignited protests and rebellions all across North America, as the righteous anger at a system whose police routinely murder Black proletarians and other oppressed people boiled over after nothing has changed despite so many killings caught on camera and so much talk of reform.
Some readers of kites, particularly class-conscious proletarians in North America and our international audience, may be confused when they encounter the terminology and slogans used by postmodernist activists and academics in the US and Canada that are alien to their life experience and to common sense. In order to assist such readers in making sense of the nonsensical language trafficked by postmodernists and develop their ability to contend with postmodernist ideology and politics from a communist perspective, kites has come up with the following translation guide. The terminology and slogans popular with postmodernists are translated into what Fred Hampton called plain proletarian English, guided by a Dave Chappelle-inspired insistence to “say what you mean.” We believe it is appropriate to mock people who claim to be about ending oppression but insist on using alienating grad school language that seems to serve the purposes of separating postmodernists from the masses, policing people for the words they use, and mistaking the use of convoluted terminology for intelligence. “Performative wokeness” (to use postmodernist language against postmodernists) has nothing to do with real liberation.
An Interview with Comrade Kiran (Mohan Baidya), General Secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal (Revolutionary Maoist)
The interview was conducted in January 2021 and appears in the kites Issue #4.
In the 1990s, when the ruling classes were proclaiming the permanent victory of capitalism-imperialism in all corners of the globe, a small cadre of revolutionaries in remote, landlocked Nepal dared to prove them wrong and waged 10 years of revolutionary people’s war that shocked local and international observers and inspired a generation of rebels around the world. Led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN (M)), this people’s war was able to mobilize the masses in the largely agrarian country against forms of oppression both archaic (caste and national oppression, mass landlessness, and semi-feudal agriculture) and horrifically modern (labor export, including the widespread sex trade of girls and women) as well as against a ruling system that reflected those contradictions: a parliamentary monarchy.
An Interview by Kersplebedeb with Kenny Lake and Amil K. from the kites Editorial Committee
KERSPLEBEDEB: What is kites? Who produces it?
Kenny Lake: kites published its first issue in January 2020, aiming to fill the need for communist theory and strategy for revolution in North America, and to do so in a way that wasn’t full of the same old dogmatism. Two organizations, Revolutionary Initiative (RI) in Canada and the Organization of Communist Revolutionaries in the US, took the initiative to start it. An editorial committee, consisting of comrades in the US and Canada, was formed in 2019 to take responsibility for producing kites. We published our second issue in October 2020 and our third is being released now in February 2021.
Amil K.: I’d like to elaborate on what kites is by discussing dogmatism versus the practice of developing revolutionary theory.
To start us off, I think dogmatism is a trap. I see Left dogma serving much of the same function as the “opiate” of religious dogma: it can be a real salve to the conscience for any and all trying to cope with the daily assaults and alienation of bourgeois society. And that’s what makes it a trap. It’s a safe and predictable retreat. I think this is where the tendency towards “book worship” springs from. The problem, however, is that deep within that comfort zone of “theory” disconnected from practical activity the dogmatist is still wading in the nihilistic rot of bourgeois society, with no real faith that proletarian revolution is possible.
Click on cover image for printable PDF of this manual from OCR.
During his struggle with the economists (those Marxists who restricted their political work to struggles over the immediate conditions of exploitation at the factory), Lenin, in his seminal work What Is to Be Done?, wrote:
A basic condition for the necessary expansion of political agitation is the organization of comprehensive political exposure. In no way except by means of such exposures can the masses be trained in political consciousness and revolutionary activity.
This manual will serve as a political and technical guide to communist agitation. Agitation is the process by which communists systematically lay bare the instances of oppression and exploitation that the masses face on a daily basis and point to their source in the system of capitalism-imperialism. Communists distinguish agitation from propaganda, the latter being a lengthier examination of an issue or question in an all-around way, paying attention to the history as well as the motion and development of a contradiction. (This communist definition of propaganda differs from the more general and usually negative usage of the term propaganda as any political text or art that aims to persuade or manipulate its audience.)