There Is No Other Way" An Interview with Luís Arce Borja

September 25, 2007

Luis Arce Boraa is the editor of El Diario, a pro-Sendero newspaper published in Lima. He was interviewed in Bel- gium, where he lives in exile. Are you a member of Sendero Luminosoa? Sendero Luminoso is a pejorative term, used by the foreign and bourgeois press; the correct name is Communist Party of Peru, PCP. I arajournalist, editor of El Diario. My political convictions coincide with those of the PCP or, I would rather say, I can express the PCP's ideas correctly. I have had the privilege ofinterviewing Dr. Abimael Guzmin, the leader of ade PC, and have had the opportunity to study its documents. But I do not consider myself an official rep- resentative of the Communist Party. Our perception is that Sendero is a revolutionary movement of the Peruvian people, which seems to commit indiscrimi- nate acts of violence against that same people. Could you clarify this at ledst apparent contradiction ? Not a single revolution has come about without having to fight against the gigantic publicity machine of the major imperialist powers and the establishment. To give a historical example, when the Bolsheviks took power in 1917, the Western press not only said they tortured the Russian people, but even accused them of eating their children. As part of its counterinsurgency policy, the Peruvian government distorts the realities of the Peruvian guerrilla struggle. It seeks to influence international public opinion, to prevent the guerrillas from finding support among the peoples of the superpowers. Therefore, it is not surprising that a lot is opment did bring massive dislocation of peasants, and peasant mobilization against the usurpation and despolia- tion of communal lands, forcing the government to initi- ate agrarian reform in the 1960s. As in a number of other nations, the agrarian reform efforts only sharpened class divisions and accelerated political conflict in the country- side. One-third of Peruvian families are now headed by women, and this statistic is much higher in most rural areas.' Besides assuming the primary burden for main- taining subsistence agriculture, many women are entre- preneurs or contract workers in the "informal economy," or have some income from wages but not on a regular or full-time basis. Neither the government nor the country's major union federations have offered women consistent support in any of these roles. Many poor women, there- fore, tend to be skeptical about the possibilities for real change short of rebuilding social and economic life liter- ally "from the ground up." Shining Path provides them with a vehicle for pursuing such a radical vision and has welcomed women's leadership in the process. While women's economic interests have become sharply differentiated from those of men in many commu- being said and written against the PCP. It has been said that it murders peasants, that it enlists peasants for guerrilla fighting at gunpoint, that the Peruvian peasant is stuck between the army and the guerrillas. But we ought to ask ourselves: If the PCP is and does all the bourgeois press accuses it of, how can we explain its growing support? How could this guerrilla army, which started in 1980 with nothing but sticks, have come to dominate more than 80% of Peru's territory? To say that the PCP murders peasants is really abig lie, and neither the bourgeois press nor the army has been able to prove it. Confrontations between the guerrilla forces of the PCP and combined forces of the army, the police and peasants recruited by them do occur. In such cases, it is possible that some peasants fall victim to PCP bullets, but these are a sort of paramilitaramilitary group within the army. Even the PCP's opponents have had to recognize that the army is using thousands of peasants as cannon-fodder. But one cannot accuse the PCP of going to the villages to commit the horrible kind of killings of which the army and the police are culpable. Nevertheless, isn't it a fact that Sendero Luminoso has killed trade-unionists and left-wing politicians? In terms of logic, no guerrilla army can grow and develop if it kills its own people. That is impossible. It is certainly true that there are executions by the PCP of elements of the army, the police, of paramilitary groups, of corrupt authorities and of activists of the United Left, which hasn't been a real Left for years. Where do you draw the line between complicity with the establishment and, for example, neutrality? There is aclear distinction between neutrality, complicity and opposition to the revolution. The PCP recognizes that peasants can be neutral, because the progress of the revolu- tion can be slower or faster according to circumstances. Even though in the last elections we called for a boycott, we haven't begun to kill all the people who voted for Fujimori. But the people from the United Left are not neutral; they are accomplices in the drama the Peruvian people are living. They helped bring Fujimori to power, just as they supported Alan Garcia for the past five years. Can we consider this neutrality? No, there is a war going on here. Executions of these elements is not like killing ignorant or innocent people. Their activities are financed by the state and by foreign powers because they all live from NGO money. Selective executions of United Left, police, members of paramilitary groups, government functionaries, foreign offi- cials, yes, all that happens. There is no alternative. Whoever thinks that a war can be fought with rose petals is wrong. But massacres of peasants only occur at the hands of the army in the areas liberated by the guerrillas. Isn't there a contradiction between Fujimori's overwhelm- ing electoral victory and your assertion that the PCP con- trols 80% of Peruvian territory? No, there is no such contradiction. First, the most bloody regimes have held elections in Peru, as in the rest of Latin America. They have never been the democratic expression of the people, not once in the whole history of Latin America. In the last elections in Peru about 10 million Peruvians were eligible to vote. More than 3,660,000 did not vote. Fujimori obtained 24% of the six million cast in the first round, a ridiculous amount. In the second round, with two candidates, sure they voted for him. It does not mean the people opted for a third way; it means that within the manipulative electoral system, people always have some hope that one candidate or another will change something. But there is no real choice. Fujimori, Vargas Llosa and the United Left are all part of this folkloric tinglado [spectacle] that takes place every five years in Peru. That's why the PCP didn't push too hard for the boycott. It said boycott as far as possible. ButI can very well imagine that many Peruvians are sick and tired of war and killing, and want some peace and quiet. The masses always want peace, but in Latin America they have never had any. How can you have peace with millions of children dying of hunger, or with women killing their own children because they can't feed them? How can you talk of peace when peasants hang themselves because they can't bear to go on living? Ten years ago, when the war began, the PCP said the feudal system had to be destroyed, and the feudal lords with it. So they came into the villages, took the gamonal, called in the population and said: "We are going to have a people's court. Speak up about all the gamonal has done." And the peasants testified how he raped their daughters and killed their husbands. The Peruvian legal system is incapable of punishing these crimes, so the PCP does it. The punishment is execution. This is how the PCP avenges the peasant, and begins to do justice. Because before, if a peasant dared to go to court and denounce these crimes, he ended up in prison accused of theft or something. Sendero Luminoso intends to put an end to such abuses. And it is making progress, killing gamonales, corrupt authorities, judges, mayors, etc. The peasant sees justice done, for the first time in 400 years, since the time of Tdpac Amaru. The rural masses in Peru have always used violent methods to punish crimes and offenses. Always. And then the army comes in and kills half the village. That's how it works in Peru. The Peruvians are different frdm the Nicaraguans or the Salvadorans, because the feudal system has hardly changed since the time of Spanish domination. In a war with such extremely ferocious opponents, you are not going to find softer ways to punish people like the gamonales. What is going to be left of Peru after this war? A nation destroyed? It's impossible to tell what the future will bring. What we can foresee is that the violence will develop further. The economic resources are being destroyed just like the Europe- ans did in their struggle against Hitler, as part of the military strategy to weaken the establishment. That is the same in every war. The real problem is what is goingto happen in case of a large-scale U.S. military intervention. That is what ought to preoccupy the democratic press abroad. The point is not what will be left of Peru after the guerrilla struggle, but what the disastrous consequences of the economic policies of this government will be. The people cannot bear it any longer. There is no other way out but the revolution. The PCP calculates that in the coming two to three years the war will escalate to the hilt, as will U.S. intervention. You can count on the number of victims reaching 100,000 people in the next two years. That is worrisome, but how can it be avoided? By negotiating like the guerrillas did in El Salva- dor? Impossible, it doesn't achieve a thing. Or by handing overpowr to the imperialist bourgeoisie like the Sandinistas did? That is betraying your people and the blood that has been shed in40 years of struggle. Or by handing in your weapons in exchange for a post as health minister, like the M-19 in Colombia? What does that solve? Or like the Peruvian MRTA that wants to negotiate about the war? What for? To try to humanize the war? I don't know in what sense a war can be humanized: a war without bullets? If there are no bullets, there will be knives and spears. I may sound like an apologist for war, but there is no way to avoid the confrontation between the Peruvian people and the U.S. interventionist forces. How do you see the recent experience of socialist revolu- tions? A lot of people say that the Eastern European experience proves the failure of socialism. But all that has failed there is a military caste, a dictatorship, a regime of state capitalism. It is not the failure of socialism but the failure of the usurpers of the people's power. The same happened in China when Deng Xiao Ping rose to power after the death of President Mao. Now 50 million Chinese peasants live in poverty-that never occurred when Mao was in charge. Our party, learning from the Chinese, Soviet and Eastern European experiences. knows it has to develop a permanent cultural revolution-a struggle between bourgeois ideas and the proletarian ideas of the masses. It is the only way to keep the bourgeoisie from returning to power. Even if you take away its power, its army, its state. the bourgeoisie will continue to exist. You need a very intense cultural revolution. You have to fight ideas with ideas, and you have to fight hard. I don't mean to say that you have to murder everybody with bourgeois ideas because coming from a bourgeois system all have been influenced, we all have bourgeois tendencies. People have said that after the Nicaraguan experience, revolution in Latin America has become impossible. I say that, at this very moment, the time is actually quite favorable for socialist revolution. The Nicaraguan example only proves that once a people takes power, it has to change the state. If you leave the state apparatus intact, the bourgeoisie contin- ues to rule. Nicaragua suffered from that mistake. They made the revolution, threw out the dictator, but the state apparatus persisted as before, and in the countryside the peasants' position with respect to the landowners remained unchanged. What we can learn from Nicaragua is the importance of changing the state, violently. To completely destroy the old state and install a new one, under the leadership of the working class and the peasants, in alliance with the other social classes. That is the way to put an end to bourgeois oppression.

Tags: Peru, Shining Path, Luis Arce Borja, Interview

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