PROLETARIAN HISTORY: Chairman Gonzalo’s Speech from the Cage

Photo: Chairman Gonzalo of the Communist Party of Peru delivering his famous “Speech from the Cage” after his capture in 1992.

Editor’s note: We have retracted mention of “Comrade” Míriam from this piece after receiving criticism about her current involvement in revisionist organization MOVADEF and pushing the right opportunist line in Peru as well as spreading anti-party lies about Chairman Gonzalo. We self-criticize for not investigating further, and we are taking steps to do a better job of researching our history articles in the future.

By Jakob Stein

On September 24, 1992 Chairman Gonzalo gave one of the most renowned speeches in the history of the International Communist Movement, sometimes called the “Speech from the Cage,” the “Transcendental Speech,” or the “Speech of the Century.” After his capture on September 12, the old Peruvian state sought to parade him in front of the media to spread the lie that the People’s War had been defeated, but Gonzalo transformed the reactionary stunt intended to humiliate the revolutionary movement into a defiant act of resistance.

Surrounded by armed guards and bourgeois reporters, they pulled a sheet off the man-sized cage to reveal Chairman Gonzalo dressed in prison stripes. The striped jumpsuit is not a typical prison uniform in Peru but was chosen for dramatic effect, with the number “1509” used symbolically to represent the date police planned to arrest him (they acted early due to fears he would move). Exemplifying great leadership, he used this moment as an opportunity to address Party members, combatants, and the Peruvian masses rather than the press or the fascist and lackey of US imperialism, Alberto Fujimori.

“We are living historic moments, each of us knows that this is the case, let us not fool ourselves. In these moments we must strengthen all forces to confront difficulties and continue carrying out our tasks,” declared Chairman Gonzalo. He continues, “We are here as children of the people and we are fighting in these trenches, they are also trenches of combat, and we do it because we are Communists! Because here we are defending the interests of the people, the principles of the Party, and the People’s War. That is what we do, we are doing it and will continue to do so!”

Leading up to his capture, detectives with the state’s anti-terrorist branch, the Counter-Terrorist Directorate (DIRCOTE), had zeroed in on a building rented by ballerina Maritza Garrido-Lecca and architect Carlos Incháustegui in the Surco district of southern Lima. Weeks of surveillance had uncovered in the building’s trash psoriasis medicine (a skin disease from which Chairman Gonzalo suffers) as well as his favorite brand of cigarettes. Up until then, Chairman Gonzalo had repeatedly eluded the authorities.

The day of Chairman Gonzalo’s capture, police fired into the air (one shooting himself in the foot) before storming the complex, finding him at his desk on the second floor which also contained a dance studio.

“You can take anything away from a man, except what he has here,” Chairman Gonzalo reportedly said at the time, pointing at his head. “This cannot be removed even if he is killed. And even if they do kill him, the rest will remain.”

For 27 years since that day, Chairman Gonzalo has been held in a maximum-security prison below the Callao naval base. As the world’s greatest living Maoist and foremost political prisoner, he shines as a brilliant example of revolutionary optimism and dedication. His contributions are being upheld and applied by revolutionaries across the world, most notably in Latin America, and continue as the guiding thought in the ongoing People’s War in Peru.

The campaign to free Chairman Gonzalo and defend his life has been taken up by revolutionaries across the world. The International Communist Movement (ICM) has united around political prisoners from Asia, to Europe, to Latin America, embodying the principle of internationalism. As the ICM advances toward the Unified International Maoist conference they remember his words bravely spoken from the cage:

“As we see in the world, Maoism is marching unstoppably to lead the new wave of proletarian world revolution. Listen well and understand! Those who have ears, use them. Those who have understanding – and we all have it – use it!” He continued by emphasizing the need for Communists to reconstitute parties around the world, “What do we need? We need Maoism to be incarnated, and it is being incarnated, and it shall guide and command this new great wave of the proletarian world revolution that is coming by means of generating Communist Parties.”

Watch a video containing the speech [Chairman Gonzalo’s starts speaking at 1:20]