Theater of War

I’ve been reading about peace processes that took place in Latin America in the 1980s/1990s and came across a wild nugget about the Peruvian guerrilla organization Sendero Luminoso (“Shining Path”). Sendero Luminoso were atypical among Central & South American revolutionary movements as they were a vanguard movement rather than a popular movement: i.e. keen on carrying the banner of pure ideology rather than mobilizing a base. Anyone who strayed from doctrine was subject to assassination: not only the political bosses and big landowners of the countryside, but leftist intellectuals who sought to reform the state (rather than smash it) or peasants who participated in rural farmers’ markets (“capitalist practices”). In reality, Sendero Luminoso was only a thousand or so individuals strong, and in a few short years the group would lose the guerrilla war because they alienated their social base, but Peruvians in the urban areas couldn’t grasp the group’s limited & power waning power–they just knew there were neo-Maoist madmen in the mountains who claimed to be the Fourth Sword of Marxism and wanted to ransack the nation-state and destroy its seats of power. And how could the people of Lima not be terrified when the group was pulling wildstyle David Copperfield/Criss Angel shit up in the mountains?:

“The guerillas’ weakness was not evident to those who lived in the capital. In the mid-1980s, Limeños had been subjected to blackouts that would reveal an enormous bonfire in the shape of a hammer and sickle etched into the desert mountains and silhouetted against the sky.”

Wha-ii?! Dudes would trip the switch on the city’s lights and draw all eyes to their looming, blazing, menacing logo?! Like a badass Al-Qaeda lazer show.

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3 Responses to “Theater of War”

  1. doomspirals Says:

    there’s an actually not bad Feature Film in the “investigation/cop drama” genre [directed by John Malkovich of all people] re: a fictionalized sendero luminoso, entitled “the dancer upstairs”. for a dang movie it does a pretty good job of exploring the flavor, if you will, of the conflict and its context. put it on your movie queueueueue!

  2. doomspirals Says:

    ALSO, i disagree somewhat with the contention that they didn’t develop a base – their early successes and longevity were in part due to the fact that they DID cultivate a base among the indigenous/Quechua-speaking/rural populations during the 70s, which were essentially ignored by the guvmint during this time – it’s my understanding that as the group progressed thru their fearless leader’s revolutionary program/shit went crazy after 1980, a lot of the base-maintenance fell by the wayside in a wacky clusterfuck of personality cultish psuedo-philosophic psycho puritanism. i don’t have any footnotes on me tho!

  3. doomspirals Says:

    Doom1 to Doom2, come in Doom2…

    I think you are right to draw a line at 1980. Prior to “the initiation of the armed struggle” phase in 1980, Sendero did much to garner support and reach out to the campesinos, especially the youth. With its base in the regional university at Huamanga, Sendero sent out teachers, “revolutionary anthropologists, historians, archaeologists, and others from the [university] who conducted field research and worked with the local populations to prepare for armed struggle,” writes M. Chernick. Ponciando del Pino, a historian from the University of Huamanga, adds, “Shining Path, moreover, offered a system of order, in contrast to the arbitrary rule of the authorities, police, merchants, and teachers. Sendero seemed to buttress ethical and moral values in crisis by punishing adultery, alcoholism, vagrancy, robbery, and cattle rustling. It seemed to offer not only a just and ordered society, but solutions to concrete problems that the state and capitalism had not addressed.” However… [[dang. I do think there is an important *however* but it will have to wait till this afternoon… unless someone can spark an armed resistance that will topple the state before my 10:45 meeting!]]

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