Thursday, September 5, 2013

No truth or reconciliation in Peru for deaths of 70,000 people

In the 1960s & 1970s, influenced by Che Guevara & the Cuban Revolution, Vietnamese resistance to US aggression (partly by guerrilla forces & partly by a regular army experienced in warfare after 40 years of fighting the French occupation), & by Mao Zedong’s concept of  people’s war, political activists around the world became attracted to guerrilla warfare as a military/political strategy for changing the world. Although it set off a furor of political debate, it’s regrettable consequences soon became apparent when it justified extreme repression & violence against activists or those suspected of being sympathetic. That legacy remains the basis of the so-called “war against terrorism” now used to justify war, occupation, Islamophobia, Guantanamo & other CIA torture chambers.

Many activists, either of the obtuse kind or those unfamiliar with the history or those debates, continue to argue for guerrilla warfare--but then some of the worst ideas in human history have been among the most enduring. There are many problems with guerrilla war strategy--not the least of which are its catastrophic failures. No matter how ardent or committed its proponents & activists, it is a military solution to political problems because it is an attempt to substitute small bands of armed combatants for the massive intervention of working people to fight for their own interests & it expresses cynicism about the possibility of that intervention.

Militarizing the struggle for social transformation necessitates a certain kind of leadership regime: elitist, autocratic, secretive, exclusionary & not at all democratic--in other words a breeding ground for tyranny under a different regime in place of social transformation. What the hell is the point of that!? Alliances & coalitions with political forces who don’t agree with armed struggle are not just eschewed; these forces become seen as “the enemy.”

Perhaps the most unforgiving feature of this strategy is its romanticism, its failure to see that poorly armed, untrained rookies at war are no match at all for high-technology armies bankrolled by the US, with generals trained in military strategy at the US School of the Americas & by US special forces, & operations led by US counterinsurgency experts & psycho-killers. You don’t organize political movements at their weakest points where they cannot win without a deus ex machina or a miracle; you organize them where they actually exert power.

The power of working people to change this world rests in what we control--which is not military arsenals. Where we are strongest & cannot be defeated is that nothing is planted or harvested, not an article of clothing is made, not a car or tractor or truck or tank or bulldozer rolls off an assembly line, nothing is moved or transported to market, nothing is made or built without working people. Nada, nothing, zip happens unless we say so. If we sit down, the planet stops. That’s our power & that’s what needs to be organized because that’s where we can’t lose. Even though this is a much more daunting strategy it is the only effective one when they hold all the guns & they’re shooting live ammunition.

In this strategy there will be some scuffles--or several. If they’re coming after us now with tear gas & tanks just for exercising our right to protest, imagine what military force they will employ when we demand the reins of power before they run this planet & us any further into barbarism!

Shining Path was a Peruvian guerrilla group that declared guerrilla war in 1980 against the government on behalf of the Quechuan Indians who were & remain subject to crushing poverty & racist oppression. In going after Shining Path the Peruvian military did not distinguish between guerrilla combatants & indigenous civilians & engaged in severe repression, including rapes, torture, disappearances, massacres. Of the 70,000 murdered (including an estimated 25,000 disappeared) it is estimated that no more than a few hundred were combatants but by the late 1980s, Peru led the world in civilian disappearances & massacres.

Through all this, Shining Path activists were no paragons of idealism; they engaged in despicable acts of terrorism & human rights violations, allegedly assassinating trade union activists, uncooperative Quechuan civilians, & those they considered compromising with the regime. But the Peruvian military were solely responsible for turning the misguided strategy of people’s war into a bloodbath--& this is not for one moment to render impunity to Shining Path for its bankrupt & reckless politics that ended up using the Quechuan people as cannon fodder. When Mao said "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” he should have clarified for obtuse disciples which side of the gun they should be on.

In 2003, a government-appointed Truth & Reconciliation Commission (without a single Quechuan participant) issued a report & made recommendations. The report claimed the majority of violence & human rights crimes were by Shining Path & let the Peruvian military essentially off scot-free. They held ceremonies & press conferences, unveiled plaques in memory of the victims, brought in marching bands for concerts of Peruvian music--all to mask the real truth that the whole damn report was a bag job. As of August 28th, 2013, not a single recommendation for reconciliation has been implemented--& the truth has certainly not been served. Not by a long shot! There have been no reparations, no prosecutions, no official searches for grave sites. It is family members scouring the countryside looking for the graves of their beloved who have recovered 2,478 bodies of the disappeared.

On the anniversary of the report’s release (Aug. 28th) hundreds marched in Lima in remembrance of the victims. Absent & remaining mute were the country’s political & military leaders. This woman points to a stone with the name of her murdered relative at the commemoration in Lima.

(Photo by Ernesto Benavides/AFP/Getty Images)

No comments:

Post a Comment