Since we began publishing PLN we have reported on struggle and conditions affecting political prisoners of diverse movements, groups and parties around the world, to include Palestinian, Irish, Puerto Rican, New Afrikan, Anti-imperialist and Peruvian prisoners to name a few. Generally this reporting has met with interest and approval from our readers because PLN is one of the few publications that covers this type of news. Our coverage of struggle by political prisoners of the Communist Party of Peru (PCP, also known in the mainstream media as the Shining Path ) has been a bit more controversial.
In the August, 1992, issue of PLN we printed a letter by Lofofora Contreras who claimed that the PCP persecuted gays and thus shouldn't be supported. At the time we responded to his concerns. We contacted the PCP on this matter at the time but did not receive their reply in time for that issue. Mr. Contreras wrote us a follow up letter which we print below. We sent a copy of the letter to the PCP for their response which we include. We apologize for the delay in printing the letter and article on what has become, at least in some circles in the U.S., a pressing issue. The delay was due to awaiting a response from the PCP which, due their situation, delays communication.
On a side note, PLN 's articles sympathetic to the PCP have resulted in difficulty's in obtaining a grant from Resist. We eventually obtained the grant. Support for revolutionary struggles, and their prisoners, is usually controversial at the best of times. We hope the following adequately responds to comrade Contreras concerns as well as helps discredit the allegations against the PCP that they persecute gays.
Contreras writes: In the August, '92 issue of PLN there appeared a letter by me alleging that the Shining Path revolutionary organization in Peru has a practice of killing transsexuals, transvestites, gays and lesbians in the course of their revolutionary struggle. It was responded to, in the same issue, by the editors, who examined the claims. Other persons have offered comments surrounding this matter. By the reaction, there appears to be a degree of uncertainty among some persons as to the underlying purpose of my letter. This is an attempt to clarify the issues.
First and foremost, my letter was not a critique of revolutionary struggle. Let there be no question about it: I definitely support the revolutionary struggle and am intimate with its disciplines. I consider myself a part of it; all prisoners should considering the social and economic forces that contribute to crime and political apathy among lower class populations, who make up the vast majority of prisoners everywhere. The underlying causes of crime are an equal issue with our conditions of confinement because they both affect us adversely as persons of a class and cause us to protest in a number of ways against a common entity. We all come from the same social class of oppressed persons and have a common enemy, though some refuse to see this truth and prefer to remain mental slaves. Revolutionary resistance has become a survival instinct of many cultures of the world as a result of capitalist exploitation and it's ultimate manifestation: imperialism. Whether in North America, Africa, Asia, latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, Australia, the Pacific Islands, we are all intimate with the genocide, racism, colonialism and neo-colonialism, slavery, sexism, discrimination and greed of capitalism and imperialism and all the suffering that they cause.
Nor is my letter a denunciation of the Shining Path, whom I've always considered to be in the forefront of revolutionary struggle in the American theater. I have been well aware of them since their inception, but it was only recently that I received a flow of information alleging that they persecute transsexuals and gays. This source is not of the conventional media, here or elsewhere. The information relied on comes from sources in Peru itself. I have also been in harmony with the Cuban revolution for decades but have become very concerned about first hand accounts of the persecution and exile of transsexuals and gays there.
My overall objection was not to political coverage per se, but to persons identifying themselves as revolutionaries who are anti-transsexual/transvestite/gay/lesbian/bisexual. Unfortunately, these sort of attitudes exist today in some revolutionary circles. But as contradictions heighten and consciousness expands some of us have been able to crystalize our analysis of class and persons and adjust our program accordingly. I believe this is what Lenin meant when he said, in his time, that in the future there will be "forms of struggle that we are now unable to foresee." For the record, the Bolsheviks did not persecute gays.
Since my letter appeared in PLN I have been informed that Shining Path denies that they persecute transgendered or gay persons. This continues to conflict with our own information. The fact that they may not advertise persecution of us is unimpressive. Prisons do not advertise it either, yet they persecute us. Similarly, the fact that a professor familiar with Peru has been unable to confirm reports of Shining Path persecution of our kind does not lay to rest our claims. With all due respect to Professor Andrea, we doubt if she has contacts with the Movimiento Homosexual de Lima (MOHL) or any other group of transsexuals, lesbians, gays or transvestites in Peru, overt or covert, who are witness to Shining Path massacres of our kind. It is not as if such victims are enthusiastic about reporting these incidents in hopes that the police or government, who despise them no less, will protect them, or as if they can make accusations from the grave.
It has been necessary for transsexuals to adopt many forms of economic and social survival, whether by means of prostitution (worldwide) or armed bank robberies to finance sex change surgery (Mexico). It automatically follows that when pressed by forces that seek to annihilate us there are many who will not hesitate to strike back with all of our might and with every resource available to ensure our survival.
We reiterate our allegation against the Shining Path that they inflict hardship, injury and death upon persons based on their gender orientation and sexual preference. We welcome a formal, official public statement from them that they do not persecute persons of our ilk.
Whatever the debate, we cannot discard other realities. Mr. Guzman, the leader of Shining Path, deserves a fair trial under universally accepted standards, as any person does, and should not be denied his human and legal rights and subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. These are principles of humanity and law that must prevail over political lines.
Lastly, it is not my intent to suggest restrictions on PLN coverage. It would be inappropriate for me or anyone else to attempt this. The press is a historical laser edge of freedom of speech and must play an active role in an open society. It has the responsibility of being a social mirror. It should not be restrained. This point becomes even more important when reporting from gulags, dungeons, control units and concentration camps. The content of the press must always be at the discretion of the editors, and any interference with such discretion is akin to censorship.
In closing, we wish to express our heartfelt appreciation to PLN and Professor Andrea for taking the time, energy and resources to investigate this matter. PLN is a responsible press and truly speaks the concerns of the people.
The Uruguayan weekly Brecha , in it's February 12, 1993, edition, reported an interview with Enrique Bossio, a member of the Homosexual Movement of Lima. Bossio is quoted as saying that the PCP has not made gays the focus of any attacks and admitted the important role that women play in the PCP leadership. He stated that the MRTA (Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement) has threatened gays in the areas it controls and has killed at least seven gays.
In further investigating Lofofora's claims I contacted both the PCP and Lucien Chauvin, a gay journalist and activist in Lima. Most important however is the PCP's response. I have closely followed the PCP's development and progress over the years and have read virtually all of their materials, communiques and statements that they have published and made available outside of Peru. The PCP, as even its critics will admit, claims its actions and does not shy away from admitting responsibility for controversial actions or policies. It is in this light that their response should be viewed.
The PCP states, in response to Lofofora's letter: "We have sought articles on the homosexual question written by our teachers, that is to say Marx, Lenin and Chairman Mao and even others, but we have not found any, nor has our party specifically addressed this question in it's documents. In general, it appears to us that there is an excessive preoccupation with this subject in certain revolutionary and militant circles in the US which does not exist in Europe. They are, as we have previously stated, lies and slander which claim that the PCP kills gays for being gay or makes statements against them.
"In reality, if we examine what Marxism says, the problem is not one of a persons sexual orientation but rather the class position that they take as everyone is classified as revolutionary, progressive, democrat, revisionist or reactionary. Far from making a lengthy analysis here, we can see that homosexuals have existed in all societies, some from birth others converted by the social environment in which they live or have lived, the latter seems extremely influential to us. Our view is that homosexual orientation is not an ideological matter but one of individual preference.
"It is probable that the PCP has executed a homosexual, but rest assured that it was not done because of their sexual orientation but because of their position against the revolution. It is not difficult to see that in the bars and brothels of Peruvian cities frequented by elements of the police and army some homosexuals work as snitches and collaborators and because of this they accumulate blood debts with the revolution so that when the party seizes that city it will settle accounts with those elements, regardless of their sexual orientation. What then happens is the government and reactionary media report that the Party killed gays or "cleaned up" the city.
We reiterate that the PCP does not attack, slander nor discriminate against anyone because of their sexual orientation. In fact, party membership is open to all who support the cause of communist revolution and the principles of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, Gonzalo Thought, regardless of what their sexual preferences may be. We believe that there are other more important and crucial topics over which to open major discussion, such as, for example, that of revolutionary violence, which is concretely the universal weapon of the people's war, etc."
In his letter Lucien Chauvin also confirmed that the PCP does not attack homosexuals because of their sexual orientation. He stated that there were opportunistic elements in the gay community in Peru who had jumped on the anti-PCP bandwagon to advance their own interests. Mr. Chauvin makes clear that he is no supporter or sympathizer of the PCP. He suggested that perhaps comrade Contreras had confused the PCP with the MRTA which, as stated above, has in fact launched well publicized attacks <%-2>against gays and transsexuals in the areas of Peru that it maintains a presence.<%0>
I receive and read a variety of publications from all over Latin America. Most are liberal in outlook and also do not support the PCP yet aside from the above article in Brecha , none have reported one way or the other on any persecution of gays by the PCP. Given the leadership role that women have in the PCP, it is unique in this respect among Latin American Communist parties, and their revolutionary program for social change there is no reason to believe the allegations of gay persecution made against the PCP.
Comrade Contreras is well justified in his concern of whether or not the PCP is discriminatory in its practices against gays. As social revolutionaries seeking a better world the struggle against homophobia is as important as the struggle against racism, sexism and patriarchy as well the primary struggle against the rule of capitalism. In attempting to track down where this allegation originated from the first refer<%-2>ence made in passing was in an issue of NACLA's
Rumors and lies of this type advance the interests of the US government, it's Peruvian puppets and reaction in general by dividing the anti-imperialist movement and splitting those who would otherwise be opposing imperialist intervention in Peru against the PCP. When an allegation is made it helps to look at who stands to benefit from making it and of course who is making it. Support for the PCP is controversial because they are an openly communist party who are engaged in a people's war with the express goal of seizing state power and installing a popular, communist government and economy. But the goal of the anti imperialist movement in the western imperialist countries who do not define themselves as communists or revolutionaries should be to ensure that their governments do not intervene in Peru. The choice of the form of government in Peru must be made by the Peruvian people, not the US government or the Inter<%-2>national Monetary Fund. The goal of non intervention is a simple one that should not be influenced by baseless allegations.<%0>
Because this issue has received a lot of attention in the alternative press in the US please distribute this article to publications and groups which are interested in this issue. We believe PLN is the first publication, other than MIM Notes , to specifically address the matter. We hope that this serves the clarify the issue and also open debate and discussion on the issue of homophobia within the progressive and revolutionary movement as a whole.
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