Sendero Luminoso emerged both "within" and "against" his-
tory. On one level, the combination reflected Sendero's self-proclaimed place
as the agent of a world history destined to conclude in Communist Revo-
lution (an agent "within" history), and as the vanguard whose ownership
of Truth and Knowledge set it against the State and revolutionary pre-
tenders (leadership "against" history). On a deeper level, the combination of
"within" and "against" reflected the ways Shining Path represented one logi-
cal culmination, among several logical culminations, of the forces that bred
oppositional politics in twentieth-century Peru. As a probability or culmi-
nation "within" history, the Sendero phenomenon belonged to a family of
similar phenomena anchored in Peruvian historical processes. As a histori-
cal possibility in competition "against" other historically grounded projects
and possibilities, Sendero's capacity to dominate the 1980s-to plunge a
society and its politics into profound upheaval-fell far short of inevitability,
and its unique features would prove important over the course of the war.'
In Peru, as in much of Latin America, a certain exhaustion of the Old
Regime had set in by the 1960s. To understand the sensibilities that in-
formed this exhaustion, one needs to reach back to earlier moments of
twentieth-century critique of the established order.2 In Peru, as elsewhere in
Latin America, a cycle of sharp political dissidence and mobilization defined
the late 1910S, 1920S, and 1930S as a time of middle class and worker mo-
bilization against politics as an aristocratic bastion. This was a period when
new political parties and leaders emerged and sought to establish a more
inclusionary political and social system. In the case of Peru, the social mo-
bilizations of the period involved a remarkable variety of groups-workers
and trade union groups in cities, mining camps, and sugar plantations; uni-
Previous Page Next Page