Abimael Guzmán

Peruvian Maoist revolutionary leader (1934–2021)

Manuel Rubén Abimael Guzmán Reynoso (3 December 1934 – 11 September 2021), also known as Chairman Gonzalo, was the former leader of the Communist Party of Peru Shining Path during the Maoist insurgency known as the internal conflict in Peru. He was captured by the Peruvian government in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment. A number of countries designate the Shining Path as a terrorist organization.

I believe that I've got an almost built-in optimism.


  • "Comrades. Our labour has ended, the armed struggle has begun... The invincible flames of the revolution will glow, turning to lead and steel... There will be a great rupture and we will be the makers of the new dawn ... We shall convert the black fire into red and the red into pure light.
    • Quoted, Priestland, David. The Red Flag

"We Are the Initiators" (1980)

  • We are the initiators and we should keep this fact deeply in our spirits.
  • The People’s War begins to sweep away the old order in order to inevitably destroy it. From the old, the new shall be born. And finally, like the pure and glorious phoenix bird, Communism will arise for all time.
  • In one hundred years of struggle, setbacks, and victories, the proletariat has learned how to fight and seize power with arms. The workers took it once in an embryonic form but were crushed with blood and fire. Nevertheless, we remember the Paris Commune, where those who were reviled are today heroes. And their example lives on, while their tormentors are forgotten.
  • The innumerable iron legions arise, and more and more will arise, inexhaustibly multiply, encircle and annihilate reaction. Reaction, which unleashes its bloody claws tearing the flesh off the people, continues to sow discord, embroil, and seeks to sate itself with the blood of the people. But the people’s blood ascends like furious wings and the stricken flesh converts itself into a powerful vengeful lash.
  • Comrades, in this country we are embarking upon a third epoch. The third epoch is a battle between armed revolution and armed counter-revolution, which are prepared for violence. Counter-revolution with its old and bloody violence, peace at the hands of bayonets, their damned wars that annihilate people in the prisons, schools, factories, in the countryside, and even assassinating children with hunger and misery in their maternal wombs.
  • All our struggles have been validated. Comrades, finally it has been realized: Initiate the armed struggle today. Everything that we have accomplished, including errors that have served as experience, are validated here. This is the essence of this School
  • We will become the protagonists of history, conscious, organized and armed. Thus, the great rupture will be open and we will become the makers of a definitive dawn
  • The People's War begins to sweep away the old order in order to inevitably destroy it. From the old, the new shall be born. And finally, like the pure glorious phoenix bird, Communism will arise for all time. We should unfurl optimism an overflow with enthusiasm, furthermore thinking that we serve to carry out a task that will last forevermore. We humans are mere fragments of time and heart beats, but our deeds will remain for centuries stamped on generation after generation. Men march inevitably towards their end, but humanity, the working class and their creations will never end.

Interview with Chairman Gonzalo [1]

  • Let us start by saying that the Communist Party of Peru, which has been leading the people's war for more than eight years now, has expressed itself publicly in a number of different documents. We have always considered the pronouncements of the Party itself to be much more important, because that way it is crystal clear that it is the PCP that has dared to initiate the people's war, lead it, and carry it forward.
  • Being communists, we fear nothing.
  • We think that to be Marxists today, to be Communists, necessarily demands that we be Marxist-Leninist-Maoists and principally Maoists. Otherwise, we couldn't be genuine communists.
  • Today, tomorrow, and in these stormy decades in which we live, we can see the enormous and overriding importance that proletarian ideology has.
  • Marxism has always taught us that the problem lies in the application of universal truth. Chairman Mao Tsetung was extremely insistent on this point, that if Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is not applied to concrete reality, it is not possible to lead a revolution, not possible to transform the old order, destroy it, or create a new one. It is the application of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism to the Peruvian revolution that has produced Gonzalo Thought. Gonzalo Thought has been forged in the class struggle of our people, mainly the proletariat, in the incessant struggles of the peasantry, and in the larger framework of the world revolution, in the midst of these earthshaking battles, applying as faithfully as possible the universal truths to the concrete conditions of our country. Previously we called it the Guiding Thought. And if today the Party, through its Congress, has sanctioned the term Gonzalo Thought, it's because a leap has been made in the Guiding Thought through the development of the people's war. In sum, Gonzalo Thought is none other than the application of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism to our concrete reality. This means that it is principal specifically for our Party, for the people's war and for the revolution in our country, and I want to emphasize that. But for us, looking at our ideology in universal terms, I emphasize once again, it is Maoism that is principal.
  • Revisionism arose as a complete negation of Marxism. Modern revisionism, likewise, is always aiming to substitute bourgeois philosophy for Marxist philosophy, going against political economy, particularly denying the growing impoverishment and the inevitability of the downfall of imperialism. Revisionism strives to falsify and twist scientific socialism in order to oppose the class struggle and revolution, peddling parliamentary cretinism and pacifism. All these positions have been expounded by the revisionists, who have aimed for and continue to aim for the restoration of capitalism, the undermining and blocking of the world revolution, and to denigrate the conquering spirit of our class. But here I feel it is necessary to spell out some points to make this concrete: revisionism behaves like any imperialism. For example, the Soviet Union, Soviet social-imperialism, preaches and practices parliamentary cretinism. It mounts and conducts armed actions for the purpose of gaining world hegemony. It carries out aggression, pits one people against another, sets masses against masses, and divides our class and the people. In a thousand and one ways Soviet revisionism fights against everything that is truly Marxist and everything that serves the revolution. We are an example of how they do this. The social-imperialists of the USSR have developed a perverse worldwide plan to become a hegemonic superpower using all the means at their disposal. This includes setting up phony parties, communist in name only, "bourgeois workers parties" to use Engels' words. And this is how Chinese revisionism and all revisionists act, differing only with regard to their particular circumstances, according to who pulls their strings.
  • Among the masses, what revisionism does is serve the cause of capitulation to internal reaction, concretely to the big bourgeoisie and the landlords, to the landlord-bureaucrat capitalist dictatorship which is the Peruvian State of today.
  • I want to make it absolutely clear that we respect this religiousness as a question of freedom of religious beliefs, as recognized by the programme which was approved by our Congress.
  • Marxism has taught us to separate Church and State, this is the first thing we will do. Secondly, I want to repeat, we respect the freedom of religious belief of the people--applying fully the principle of freedom to believe, as well as not to believe. to be an atheist. That is how we will handle it.
  • The Party is a system of organizations and obviously has its necessities. The formation of an army that is numerically much larger, more vast, also has its necessities. Marxism, and especially Chairman Mao, has taught us how to resolve this problem, too. The CPC, based on Chairman Mao Tsetung's teachings, concluded that giving economic aid to parties was corrosive, and that it was a revisionist policy, because a Party must be self-reliant. This is what we have followed: self-reliance. Self-reliance has to do with economic necessities, but mainly, as we understand it, it has to do with ideological and political orientation. With that as our starting point we can see how to deal with the economic necessities which are always present--it would be an error to say they don't exist.
  • Then, to reiterate, all the struggles waged by the proletariat, the oppressed nations, the peoples of the world, the parties and organizations steadfast and loyal to Marxism--all that struggle is the primary concrete form of proletarian internationalist help. Nevertheless, the greatest assistance we have is undying Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, the ideology of the international proletariat, which has been generated by the working class through long decades and thousands of struggles all over the world. This is the greatest assistance we receive because it is the light, without which our eyes would see nothing. But with this light our eyes can see and our hands can act. This is how we see this problem, and this is how we advance.
  • With regard to violence we start from the principle established by Chairman Mao Tsetung: violence, that is the need for revolutionary violence, is a universal law with no exception. Revolutionary violence is what allows us to resolve fundamental contradictions by means of an army, through people's war.
  • I believe that I've got an almost built-in optimism. And I occupy myself more with problems of understanding and conviction than with problems of feelings or depression. On the contrary, I think that I am quite optimistic. It is Marxism, Chairman Mao, who has made us understand that people, especially communists, are optimists. Whenever I find myself in a difficult situation I strive to look for its positive aspect or for what potential for development may stillexist within that situation, because nothing is completely black, nor is anything completely red. Even if there were to be a big defeat, even though we have not had one yet, there would always be a positive aspect. The point is to draw out the lessons, and continue to do our work based on the positive aspect. You will always find someone to support you, to lend their ardent enthusiasm and assistance to the struggle, because communism unites people.
  • Fear? I believe that fear and lack of fear form a contradiction. The point is to take up our ideology, and unleash the courage within us. It is our ideology that makes us brave, that gives us courage. In my opinion, no one is born brave. It is society, the class struggle, that makes people and communists courageous--the class struggle, the proletariat, the Party, and our ideology.
  • They will send their sinister army armed to the teeth to fight us, assaulting the working class, the peasants and popular masses, spreading their sinister claws. They will try to encircle, isolate, crush and wipe us out. But we are the future, the strength, and history. Comrades, revolution and counterrevolution are also contending forces in our country. They are two parts of a unity of opposites in constant struggle. The reactionaries are armed and concentrated, defending the metropolis and capitals. We are rooted in the countryside, in small villages, with the masses, especially with the poor peasants, with the force of the people, among their disorganized force in order to organize it into a powerful army. But this will not be easy.
  • The new is focused in our country, the armed solution, and the Party’s development through arms intensifies through the armed struggle.

Quotes about

  • Gonzalo appeared not only as the interpreter of the laws of history but also as the military leader unreachable by the repressive apparatus of the “old State.” He was every where and no where.
    • Carlos Ivan Degregori, How Difficult to be a God
  • Our chief is Gonzalo he of brilliant thought and action inspired by Marx, Lenin and Mao he develops our powerful ideology and brings to a burning world the invincible people's war.
    • A hymn of the Communist Party of Peru-Shining
  • When Abimael Guzman referred to the "bloodbath" in 1988, the insurrection's history was already strained by it. The proverbial meat grinder had processed enough people to make the Shining Path uprising one of Latin America's bloodiest since the 1960's, with clear signs of becomeing one of the cruelest wars in the continent's history.
    • "The Quota", Gustavo Gorriti (1988)
  • I give you my greeting and my full and unconditional submission to the greatest living Marxist-Leninist-Maoist on earth: our beloved and respected President Gonzalo, chief and guide of the Peruvian revolution and the world proletarian revolution, teacher of Communists and party unifier. I give you my greeting and full and unconditional submission to the scientific ideology of the proletariat" Marxist-Leninist-Maoist and Gonzalo Thought, especially Gonzalo Thought, all-powerful and infallible ideology that illuminates our path and arms our minds.
    • Anonymous member of the Shining Path, "Oath of Loyalty" (1989/1990)
    • The Peru Reader p.351-352.
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