Week 11 – The Terror

From this week’s reading I selected The Interview of the Century, 1988 (excerpt)

Whether the text is reliable in its claim of the mass’s power isn’t a given based off only the text itself. But it is also the case that Gonzalo’s call to violence did work for many “middle-class university students” and would continue growing, as Dawson and Cameron note. As it is with all communist dreams, the “shining path”, even by name, pitches itself to be a great social dream, the actual good attempt at establishing final communism. Indeed, Cameron mentions the take-over of the Peruvian elections in 1980;  the first democratic elections in over a decade in Peru, rendered null because polling booths were attacked by the Shining Path.

One feature of this source that I found interesting is though it is situated as an “interview”, there is no meaningful dialogue nor pushback between the interviewer and interviewee aside from the initial question. Indeed, with a title of “the interview of the century”, it seems to me that this publication El Diario must’ve been sympathetic to the Shining Path and acting as a platform for Gonzalo to speak. Upon some further research, I found that there exists a refashioned version of this exact interview, published in “La cuarta espada: La historia de Abimael Guzmán y Sendero Luminoso” by Santiago Roncagliolo. This version and analysis of the interview is alleged by a paper I found to have integrated fabrications and distortions to the original interview, despite being widely read. The information is on p. 116 on this paper;


This quote also really stood out for me:

“But this people’s war is so earth shaking that they themselves admit that it is of national dimensions and that it has become the principal problem facing the Peruvian State. What terrorism could do that? None.” (308).

Though this conclusion may have been reasonable for 1988, I think that the past decades have shown that it’s not always true. After 9/11, it might be said that at least one of the principal problems from that point forth for many countries became terrorism, and the consequences of terrorism (or whatever a nation is inclined to identify as terrorism) are still felt today (such as what is happening to Uighurs in China, or militant groups being mobilized in recent conflicts). Also, just like in Latin America, the terrorist label can fall upon both right wing (Neo-Nazis) and left wing (ex. current day Antifa). Although Gonzalo cannot imagine that his “noble” cause could be remotely associated with terrorism, I think this is partly some kind of Maoist exceptionalism doing the talking. It’s also true however that the Shining Path was up against a incompetent and brutal government, and that for the peasants in the countryside they weren’t so much “terrorists” as relief and help that the central government failed to provide. I think Gonzalo makes a point in stating “has it or has it not been Yankee imperialism and particularly Reagan who has branded all revolutionary movements as terrorists?”. In today’s world, what does or doesn’t constitute terrorism and what actions should then be taken remains ambiguous in some ways.


3 thoughts on “Week 11 – The Terror

  1. Jon

    “knowing that it came from a President was off-putting; to see the rhetoric so invigorated by Maoist doctrine be espoused by such a figurehead.”

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean by this, but let us be clear, for what it’s worth, that Abimael Guzmán (who also went by Chairman Gonzalo etc.) was never President of Peru. He was founder and leader of the Shining Path / Sendero Luminoso. I hope you also watched Max Cameron’s interview video for more on Sendero, as well as reading Dawson’s texts and the documents it contains.

  2. David Darbinian Post author

    Yes I did, that was from an early draft of this blog that I thought I removed but apparently didn’t.


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