Making Revolution with Shining Path

  • Tom Marks


Many gaps remain in our understanding of insurgency.1 Perhaps the most vexing is that we continue to comprehend only imperfectly the manner in which would-be revolutionaries are able to garner support. This is particularly true of movements such as Shining Path (SL or Sendero) that engage in practices which would seemingly alienate potential followers. It remains virtually an article of faith that to achieve success, an insurgent movement must win the “hearts and minds” of the people. The clandestine mechanisms of rebellion, continues the argument, are so dependent on popular assistance that they cannot possibly survive in an environment where the populace is controlled through repression.


Security Force Insurgent Movement Guerrilla Warfare Armed Struggle Principal Force 
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  1. 1.
    A particularly useful definition of the term is offered by Raj Desai and Harry Eckstein, “Insurgency: The Transformation of Peasant Rebellion,” World Politics, 42:4, July 1990, pp. 441–465: “insurgency is a syncretic phenomenon — one that joins diverse elements in an explosive mix. It combines three elements: first, the ‘spirit’ of traditional peasant ‘rebellion’; second, the ideology and organization of modern ‘revolution’; and third, the operational doctrines of guerrilla warfare” (p. 442). The authors elsewhere observe that insurgency is “the mix of millenarian zeal, revolutionary ideology and organization, and guerrilla warfare” (p. 463).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    For a summary review, see Jack A. Goldstone, “Theories of Revolutions: The Third Generation,” World Politics, 32:3, April 1980, pp. 425–453. A benchmark work is Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979). Also useful is Walter L. Goldfrank, “Theories of Revolution and Revolution Without Theory: The Case of Mexico,” Theory and Society, 7, 1979, pp. 135–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 5.
    One early work in reaction to Skocpol’s structural perspective is representative: see Bruce Cumings, “Interest and Ideology in the Study of Agrarian Politics,” Politics and Society, 10:4, 1981, pp. 467–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 6.
    This issue is discussed explicitly in Truong Buu Lam, Resistance, Rebellion, Revolution: Popular Movements in Vietnamese History (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1984), esp. pp. 37–48.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    An illustrative work is Kathleen Hartford and Steven M. Goldstein, eds., Single Sparks: China’s Rural Revolutions (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1989).Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    William A. Hazleton and Sandra Woy-Hazleton, “Terrorism and the Marxist Left: Peru’s Struggle Against Sendero Luminoso,” Terrorism, 2:6, 1988, p. 481.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    William A. Hazleton and Sandra Woy-Hazleton, “The Influence of Sendero Luminoso After One Decade of Insurgency,” Paper presented to the International Studies Association, London, April 1, 1989.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    See, for example, James Anderson, Sendero Luminoso: A New Revolutionary Model? (London: Institute for the Study of Terrorism, 1987).Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    James C. Scott, “Revolution in the Revolution: Peasants and Commissars,” Theory and Society, 7:1 and 2, January–March 1979, pp. 97–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 12.
    Virtually our entire body of literature derives its data and premises from instances of peasant rebellion. Discussion in the literature centers on two principal questions: (a) Why do peasants actually become involved in rebellion/revolutionary action? and (b) Which particular peasant strata are most prone to participate in such activities? Good overviews are contained in Cumings, “Interest and Ideology”; J. Craig Jenkins, “Why do Peasants Rebel? Structural and Historical Theories of Modern Peasant Rebellions,” American Journal of Sociology, 88:3, November 1982, pp. 487–514; and Theda Skocpol, “Review Article: What Makes Peasants Revolutionary?” Comparative Politics, 14:3, April 1982, pp. 351–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 20.
    See Cynthia McClintock, “Peru’s Sendero Luminoso Rebellion: Origins and Trajectory,” in Susan Eckstein, ed., Power and Popular Protest: Latin American Social Movements (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), pp. 61–101.Google Scholar
  12. 21.
    See Andrew R. Molnar et al., Human Factors Considerations of Undergrounds in Insurgencies (Washington: The American University, 1965).Google Scholar

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© David Scott Palmer 1994

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  • Tom Marks

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