This weekend, communists and revolutionaries across the world commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Day of Heroism, 19th June 1986, marking the massacre of two hundred and fifty revolutionaries as part of the Peruvian state’s campaign against the revolution and the people’s war.
Imperialism is, by nature, genocidal. In the long span of the last five centuries the history of capitalism has manifested itself as a history of genocide against the masses of the earth. The heartless genocide of millions in the Americas from the 1500s sounded a bugle cry for the days of hell that had befallen humanity. At much the same time the campaign to conquer Ireland reached genocidal proportions with plantations, wars and famines seeking to destroy the Irish nation in every sense. Imperialism is fundamentally anti-people and it will continue to wipe us out, be it by misery, hunger or bloodshed, until it is wiped from the face of the earth. The masses of Latin America remain at the forefront of the struggle against genocidal imperialism, demonstrated by major people’s movements and protests across the continent over the last couple years. The most remarkable recent attempt to break this weak link in the chain of global imperialism was launched in 1980 – the People’s War led by the Communist Party of Peru (PCP) and its leader, Chairman Gonzalo.
The People’s War saw the embryo of a people’s republic flourish across Peru, with a network of people’s committees and base areas allowing the oppressed masses (mainly indigenous peasants) to take political power for themselves, guided by their Party. As against any just war of the people, in response the elites unleashed a campaign of terror and destruction. The genocidal regime (led by a ‘socialist’ party throughout the ‘80s) murdered thousands in the slums and countryside in a vain attempt to stem the tide of revolution – but, as Mao and Gonzalo taught, ‘repression is what arouses and feeds the revolution’ and the brutal campaign only rallied greater forces around the revolution.
During this time Peruvian prisons became known as ‘shining trenches of combat’. Imprisoned revolutionaries would not allow themselves to be removed from the struggle. They sought to transform the prisons from centres of counter-revolution into centres of revolution – as Mao wrote, ‘each of the contradictory aspects within a thing transforms itself into its opposite’. Much like in Long Kesh the Peruvian communists made the prisons their own, shaping them as centres of resistance, education and culture for the revolutionary movement. This struggle within the prisons reached fever-pitch by the mid-‘80s. As part of its escalating repression, in a vile act of cowardice, the Peruvian state assaulted three prisons in one day, murdering two hundred and fifty prisoners. In memory of their unceasing resolve to struggle and their great sacrifice we celebrate today as the Day of Heroism.
In order to justify their genocidal violence, the imperialists have attempted to deride and denigrate the communists of Peru as ‘terrorists’, ‘maniacs’, etc. The oppressed masses simply shrug off such shallow, hypocritical attempts to undermine their leaders, martyrs and history.
Thirty-five years on the People’s War continues, though it suffered significant setbacks in the ‘90s with the capture of Chairman Gonzalo and the Party’s Central Committee followed by the emergence of rightist lines that split the movement from within. Today Gonzalo remains in his own shining trench of combat, having spent nearly thirty years in solitary confinement. His conviction and imprisonment have been internationally condemned as unconstitutional and illegal yet the Peruvian state, backed by Yankee imperialism, fear this great leader of the Peruvian and international proletariat and keep him locked away. However his Party, his teachings and his spirit continue to have a decisive influence in the international struggle against imperialism.
We remember with pride the great fallen fighters of the Peruvian revolution, who fought and died not only for the liberation of their own people but for those oppressed everywhere. Our struggle for freedom is one and the same with theirs – the sacrifice of the Irish martyrs of ’81 is linked forever with the Peruvian martyrs of ’86, all of whom fell struggling against imperialism in the most depraved of conditions, knowing full well that a better future awaits us.
Note: Watch our recent documentary on the PCP for more info :
 Communist Party of Peru, General Political Line: Military Line, 1988 (http://library.redspark.nu/1988_-_Bases_of_Discussion_of_General_Political_Line_:_Military_Line).
 Mao Zedong, On Contradiction, 1937 (https://foreignlanguages.press/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/S15-Five-Essays-on-Philosophy-3rd-Printing.pdf).