Guzmán’s philosophy and Shining Path terrorism

guzmanabimaelThe Peruvian guerrilla and terrorist group Shining Path was founded by a professor of philosophy: Abimael Guzmán.

Shining Path is a Maoist version of Marxism, believing in the inevitability of revolution and the bloody process necessary to see it through. Shining Path is estimated to have killed 11,000 civilians along the way. “A New York Times report … says the group often hacked its victims to death with machetes to save ammunition.”[1]

Guzmán is now in prison in Peru, convicted of murder and aggravated terrorism.

Now here’s the eyebrow raiser: Guzmán’s doctoral dissertation was The Kantian Theory of Space.

Is there a connection in Guzmán’s mind between Kantian philosophy and Marxist political practice? I don’t know, but I note this striking quotation about the psychological selflessness of Guzmán’s followers. From Peruvian journalist Santiago Roncagliolo:

shiningpathfiveyears“I talked to 70 people who have had personal contact with him since his childhood to the present moment. In the case of terrorists, what hit me the most was their faith. They talked about Guzmán as one would a divine entity. Not even his wife had a normal personal relationship with him. Even she called him president. The Shining Path believes in him as other people believe in God. … Now I understand better both the personal and political strategy of terrorism: Personally, they create a little world of people around a common truth, a truth that determines their love, friendship, and life. After a while, they cannot understand their own lives from that group, and they lose their individual will.”[2]

Denying reason to make room for selfless faith, indeed.

[1] “Shining Path, Tupac Amaru (Peru, leftists).” Council on Foreign Relations.
[2] “A Look Inside the Shining Path.” Foreign Policy‘s interview with Santiago Roncagliolo about his La Cuarta Espada (The Fourth Sword), which explores Guzmán’s life and downfall. The significance of the title is that Guzmán sees himself as the only true heir of Marx, Lenin, and Mao — he’s the fourth sword.
The image of Guzman is from Reuters.

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