March 28, 2023
From Internationalism

The protests that began on 7 December, after the departure of Pedro Castillo’s government, have continued; and as a result of the violence unleashed, the Peruvian Public Prosecutor’s Office indicated that, as of 20 January, 55 people had died and more than 1,200 had been injured. Similarly, there are still 78 road blockades and protest actions in 28 provinces, especially in the south of the country. On 15 January, the regions of Puno, Cusco, Lima and Callao were declared to be in a state of emergency for a period of 30 calendar days. The current government of Dina Boluarte remains firm in its decision to take an “iron fist” to the protests and to initiate judicial investigations with the support of the police intelligence apparatus, in an attempt to avoid a scenario similar to that experienced in recent years in countries such as Chile and Colombia. On the other hand, the demonstrators are demanding the release of former president Pedro Castillo (whom they see as the victim of a coup d’état), the resignation of Dina Boluarte, early elections and the holding of a referendum to approve the start of a constitutional process.

In December last year, we published an article online in which we stated the following: “The popular revolts that are rising up as organised actions of the opposing factions of the bourgeois right and left are an expression of the desperation of these same factions to maintain or regain control of the state [giving rise to a polarisation that] has permeated society, with all its burden of confusion and ideological poisoning. An example of this are the demands for the ‘closure of the congress’, ‘they must all go’, ‘new elections’, ‘new constitution’, which are nothing more than democratic demands, which only seek to maintain the status quo of the bourgeois state. These demands have nothing to do with the interests of the working class and its historical project. On the contrary, they can only confine it within this society of exploitation and social classes. They serve to divert workers from their immediate demands based on the defence of their living conditions, which also provide a necessary experience of struggle for the political maturation of their forces. […] Although we do not doubt that there are elements of the working class involved in these popular revolts who try to express their indignation at the decadence of the political class, they do so on a terrain that is not their own, where the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie impose their democratic banners, in order to keep intact the society of exploitation and the defence of their own interests of profit and gain thanks to the ferocious exploitation of the workers’ labour power. These elements of the working class and other non-exploiting strata are being swept along by the irrational and putrefying violence produced by a system that no longer has anything more to offer humanity.” [1]

Methods alien to the proletariat

It is necessary to insist that these protests have led in some regions of the country to revolts and bloody confrontations on a bourgeois terrain, where the workers are led to carry the banners of the petty bourgeoisie, becoming atomised and involved in a confrontation that is outside their class terrain. Moreover, in these revolts we have seen attitudes more akin to those of the lumpenproletariat, like the burning of buildings, companies, mines, attacks on buses, ambulances, the charging of tolls (extortion on the occupied roads) and what is worse, the attack on many workers like health workers, mine workers and agro-industrial workers, who had their belongings stolen or their physical integrity attacked because they did not want to join the revolt.

Beyond the indignation and social resentment that has historically existed in Peru’s southern provinces, such as Huancavelica, considered by the Chamber of Commerce to be the second poorest (41. 2%), followed by regions like Puno and Ayacucho [2], and the fact that leftist ideology has cultivated the narrative of the right of the poorest to rebel, of the rights of the native peoples, or of the peasants to land, what seems to be at the heart of this whole situation are the aspirations, so far frustrated, that sectors of the petty bourgeoisie, urban and rural, thought possible to fulfil once Pedro Castillo came to power.

The Peruvian big bourgeoisie which controls economic activities such as food, banking, construction, mining, tourism, materials, fuel, education, among others, with annual revenues in the billions of dollars and investments in a large part of South America, Europe and the USA [3], also maintains political control, with strong party representation in Congress, as well as having deep roots in the state apparatus.

That is why, at some points in this confrontation, it has been presented as a struggle of the “resource-rich but poor South” against the “corrupt, exclusionary and centralist” bourgeoisie of Lima. The appropriation of the great natural and material resources by the Lima bourgeoisie is another of the issues that have long underpinned the discourse of the protagonists of these mobilisations.

The sectors of the petty bourgeoisie that are driving these actions of road blockades, mobilisations and marches in the provinces and from some of these areas towards Lima, have been supported by associations of small traders, peasant federations, trade unions, regional governors, university authorities, provincial bar associations, ronderos (remnants of the so-called autonomous peasant patrols active in the 1980s) and student unions, largely permeated by leftist ideology, combined with nationalist and regionalist ideas which reflect the particular interests of these groups: at the end of the day, all these ideologies work in defence of national capital.

According to estimates by the National Institute of Statistics and Information (INEI), in the year 2021, 25.9% of the Peruvian population was living in poverty (8.5 million people), and 4.1% in extreme poverty (1. 3 million people). In these figures, the poor are considered to be that part of the population that has a monthly capacity to acquire a basket of goods and services of less than 378 soles (US$97), while extreme poverty refers to those whose capacity is less than 201 soles (US$52). [4] To this must be added the economic impact of the years of the COVID-19 pandemic and more recently of the war in Ukraine. It is clear that the world economic crisis is hitting the national bourgeoisie as a whole, but most severely the most vulnerable sectors of the productive apparatus, not to mention the informal sector.

These mobilisations are a desperate action by those sectors who have been driven to their knees by the progressive deterioration of the economy, and who have aspired to a greater political participation in the state apparatus, in order to safeguard the particular interests of this or that social category or region. They have taken advantage of the general impoverishment to whip up the scarecrow of “social exclusion” for reasons of race or region of origin, while denouncing “democracy only for the few”. The National Intelligence Directorate (DINI) and the Ministry of the Interior have stated that these mobilisations “are financed by illegal mining, drug trafficking and other agents seeking to sow fear”. It also denounces political and trade union organisations, such as Movadef, Fenate and factions of Sendero Luminoso, Central Única de Rondas Campesinas, SUTEP, as well as the Federación Regional de Productores Agrarios y Medio Ambiente (Regional Federation of Agrarian Producers and the Environment). [5]

For their part, the sectors of the traditional bourgeoisie and their parties have also taken advantage of the situation, waving the banner of the anti-communist struggle, so that “terrorism will not be repeated in the country”, which has given them the perfect excuse to unleash repression and state terror, killing two birds with one stone, by also criminalising protest and presenting any social demand as vandalism. Dina Boluarte’s government deployed 11,000 police officers to control the demonstrations in this city, and on 21 January, it intervened in the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, the main public university in the country, using a large police contingent, knocking down the main gate with a tank, also using drones and helicopters, arresting approximately 200 people, many of them demonstrators who had come from other regions and were staying overnight in that institution, sending a clear message to the student sector, which it accused of preparing terrorist actions. But as far as the working class is involved, it makes little difference whether the protests are being organised by the leftists and the petty bourgeois organisations, or whether they are being financed by illegal bourgeois gangs: the working class needs to defend its independent interests in the face of decomposing capitalism in all its forms.

Strengthening nationalism

Another way in which the various factions of the bourgeoisie attack the proletariat ideologically is through a campaign in which nationalism, the defence of democracy and the nation are exalted. This reflects another dimension of the political crisis, such as the actions in which geopolitical competition in the region is evident. On 23 January, the Peruvian Foreign Ministry issued a communiqué rejecting statements by Bolivian President Luis Arce, in which he expressed his “support for the Peruvian people’s struggle to recover their democracy and to elect a government that represents them”. [6] It should be remembered that the president of Peru’s Council of Ministers accused Evo Morales of “encouraging insurrection […] and of bringing projectiles into Peru from Bolivia”. Pedro Castillo’s intention to favour Evo Morales on the issue of access to the sea were rejected by the Peruvian right and supported by other left-wing governments in the region. This situation led the Peruvian government to prevent Evo Morales and eight Bolivian officials from entering the country.

Similarly, the Peruvian Foreign Ministry rejected the statements made by the President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro [7], regarding the events that took place on the campus of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos. One of the issues that most concerned the factions of the Peruvian right wing was the relationship with other left-wing governments in the region, although Castillo apparently did not have time to concretise strategies or concrete actions with them, which could have affected the interests historically shared by the American and Peruvian bourgeoisie. This interest was ratified by the US ambassador, Lisa Kenna, who reiterated “her country’s full support for Peru’s democratic institutions and the actions of the constitutional government to stabilise the social situation”. In the Peruvian case, it should not be forgotten that both the Pacific War with Chile (1879-1884), in which it lost the coastal province of Tarapacá, as well as the Cenepa War (1995), over border delimitation (Cenepa river basin), continue to be milestones or references of a historical narrative aimed at strengthening nationalism.

In short, the current reality shows that the Peruvian bourgeoisie, like others on the right and left in the region, has not been afraid to order repression and maintain its interests in any way it can, sending a clear message to stimulate fear in the ranks of the proletariat. It is difficult to know if these demonstrations and road blockades will last longer, but what is clear is that the Peruvian bourgeoisie seems to have convinced itself that the only way to achieve a certain political stability and control of the situation will be through the application of “legitimate violence” by the state against the population and the purging of its political apparatus of government.

This is typical of the behaviour of the entire world bourgeoisie applied during the decadence of capitalism, and it is being maintained and deepened in the present phase of decomposition. As we stated in our December 2022 article: “What is happening in Peru at the moment is not an expression or reaction of the workers, it is not the class struggle. What is happening in Peru is a struggle for purely bourgeois interests, where one of the two opposing factions of the bourgeoisie will finally take control of the state in order to continue the exploitation of the workers. The terrorism exercised by the bourgeoisies on both sides continues to cost human lives. The methods used – arson and indiscriminate violence – are opposed to those through which the working class will overthrow capitalism, based on the ability to build an organisation that can incorporate the rest of the non-exploiting layers into its programme of political and social transformation. The terror of the actions of both sides of the bourgeoisie in this revolt constitutes an attack on the consciousness of the working class.” [8]

Internacialismo, Section in Peru of the International Communist Current
February 2023


[1] “Peru: the working class finds itself in the crossfire of warring bourgeois factions”. December 2022.

[2] Los departamentos más pobres a nivel multidimensional y su avance en la ejecución de inversión pública

[3] Durand, F. (2017). Los doce apóstoles de la democracia peruana. Fondo Editorial Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.

[4] INEI (2022). Poverty affected 25.9% of the country’s population in 2021.

[5] “Who are the alleged inciters identified by DINI in the protests in Peru to create chaos and violence?

[6] Chancellery delivered a note of protest to the Bolivian ambassador for statements made by President Luis Arce

[7] Government expresses “energetic protest” at “interference” by President Gustavo Petro (El Comercio headline).

[8] Ibidem: See footnote 1.