Stop imperialist intervention in Colombia!
Unite the struggle of the workers' movement with the guerrillas' military offensive to overthrow Pastrana and the Bourgeois and Imperialist rule!
After ten months of negotiations, the government of Andrés Pastrana and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP) resolved to establish an "agenda for a dialogue for peace". The agreement was signed just after the Colombian government demilitarised an area of 42,000 sq. kms. localised in San Vicente del Caguán in the south of the country. After the agreement a new gathering of government and FARC representatives has been delayed because of the increasing political polarisation caused by the latest guerrilla offensive, the paramilitary's kidnapping and murdering of peasants, and the threat of an open US imperialist intervention in Colombia.
Recently the Minister of defence resigned accusing the President of conceding too many of FARC's demands. Despite the divisions in the bourgeois government, Pastrana is carrying on the negotiations with the guerrillas. The current attempts to establish a "peace dialogue" are being backed by US imperialism because it is the its preferred method of containing the deep economic and political crisis that is facing the country.
The US State Department warned that in the event that the Colombian situation got out of control, the US would intervene militarily in the region. The US announced that they are going to increase their present number of 240 soldiers and policemen. They are sending General Barry MacCaffray, the DEA director-general, to Colombia to assist in the negotiations and in the training of the army. The US annual military assistance to Colombia is around 289 million dollars, and this will also increase. This is a sort of "bland intervention". The US representative in the Organisation of American States (OAS) proposed that a multinational force of intervention be formed. If the social crisis gets worse an OAS military intervention led by the Argentinean Army, a country whose regime is a US puppet, will move into Colombia with the excuse of fighting narcotraffic.
The US plans for military intervention against the guerrillas to combat to the drug trafficking because, while they want to destroy the FARC and stabilise the pro-imperialistic government, they also wish to have the control of the total production and distribution of narcotics in Colombia, today the biggest drug supplier to the North American market. Drug trafficking is a business that mobilises millions of dollars, with the highest rates of profit of the world, but is not controlled by Imperialism, representing a monumental loss of currencies for the US with the exit of illegal dollars from that country.
Colombia, as well as the whole Latin America, is at the epicentre of a crisis that spread quickly from the international financial cracks which appeared in Asia in 1997, almost destroyed Russia and strongly affected the economy of all of the South cone. Since then, the region has become an centre of growing instability, where the most fragile economies like Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, have entered into crisis. Their national governments have become extremely unpopular, despite being recently elected, as it is the case of Andrés Pastrana and the Ecuadorian Jamil Mahuad, both of whom assumed the Presidency in August of 1998.
This capitalist crisis has caused an uprising of the labour and peasants movements in some Latin American countries, with strong demonstrations that threaten to develop into civil wars, like in Ecuador, where daily street protests nearly succeeded in occupying parliament. These fights were momentarily turned aside by a pact of governability between Jamil Mahuad and the rival Patriotic Front. Ecuador is today the mirror of Latin America. With an unemployment rate of nearly 20% and with under-employment that reaches 50% of the population, the economic crisis pushes the masses into a heroic fight, which hits directly the pro-imperialistic government and the rotten institutions of the regime.
This is the dynamic of crisis that marks the political and economical situation of the whole Latin American continent right now. The lack of so-called "economic and political stability" in the region places "the democratic regimes" on the brink of exhaustion and turns Latin America into a real powder barrel that threatens to explode with a domino-effect. Imperialism is aware of this danger, and for that reason threatens a military intervention in Colombia to prevent such an explosion. Since the US feels fortified (after the occupation of Yugoslavia by NATO) to rule as global policeman, it is ready to attack with its extraordinary warlike apparatus any country, town or political force, that refuses to obey its economic-political dictates.
In the particular case of the Colombian crisis, the economic fissures are acute. It experiences the biggest recession in the last 60 years; the Colombian peso, lost 25% of its value against the US$ in the last few months. Popular opposition to Pastrana is at 70% of the population, and economic activity has declined by 5.8% in the first quarter of the year. The government faced a massive general strike of professors, students and workers in May of this year, and now faces the FARC already controlling, or with a strong influence over, around 40% of Colombian territory, with about 15 thousand fighters in the demilitarised area of San Vicente del Caguán, whose border approaches the capital of the country, Bogota.
In order to assess the threat of the FARC, a report of a government commission designated by the former President Ernesto Samper to negotiate with the guerrillas, states that: "...the guerrillas operated strongly in 173 municipalities in 1985, but now, in little more than 10 years, they have increased their influence in up to 622 municipalities". It concludes that the armed conflict "...in its new forms of expression is superior to the armed capacity of the State and there is no other option to resolve the situation other than dialogue" (Report of the Governmental Commission for Peace, Colombia/97).
In the last days of July, the FARC mounted a military offensive against the army that saw more than 360 killed. The objective of the offensive was, according to the Government, to negotiate better conditions for a peace agreement. Therefore the agenda of the "dialogue of peace" was suspended and the paramilitary groups connected to the army and the Conservative Party, like "United Self-defence of Colombia" began attacking rural villages killing more than 25 and taking 50 hostages.
The Colombian crisis is becoming daily more serious and the focal point of struggle in Latin America, along with the fights taking place in Ecuador. The offensive of the FARC and the threat of an Imperialist intervention make it difficult to reach an agreement between the Government and the guerrillas. The FARC have been in existence for more than 35 years and have a major influence on the Colombian masses. Therefore, the debate on its strategy, its program and its trajectory is fundamental for revolutionary organisations which share the aim of strengthening the anti-imperialist fight and the objective of proletarian revolution in the continent.
The strategy of the FARC: To take power or to reform the bourgeois regime?
The first centres of Colombian guerrillas arose from the popular insurrection of April 1948 known as "Bogotazo". The defeat of the insurrection, due to the betrayal of its bourgeois leaders connected to the Liberal Party, turned into a farmer resistance movement, which combined the fight against the conservative dictatorship and the struggle for land against the large estate owners.
The Communist Party (PC) influenced most of the guerrilla nuclei and insurgent military forces related to the liberal Party with bourgeois nationalist roots. The PC followed the Stalinist mensheviks, subordinating the fight of the masses to the national bourgeoisie, adopting a policy of "two fields", "democracy versus dictatorship", which fed illusions that "... the liberal guerrilla nuclei advanced from a fight as an answer to the official violence to raise demands of deep social content" (Commemorative Declaration of the 30 years of the FARC).
Far from the PC's plan of establishing an alliance with the national bourgeoisie in order to construct a "New Colombia", in 1953, the guerrillas of the Liberal Party ended up laying down their arms and making an agreement with the conservative National Government, which resulted in a brutal offensive against the communist guerrillas and the murder of its main leaders. Thus was repeated in Colombia, due to the class collaborationist policy of Stalinism a massacre of the workers' and farmers' leaders, as happened in Chiang Kai Chek's China.
The remaining guerrilla nuclei continued to influence some rural zones. In 1964 the government triggered (with US support) through the OSAL (Operation for Security of Latin America) Plan, the "Marquetalia Operation" involving 16,000 troops, helicopters, US attack airplanes and instructors, and was able to impose a defeat on the guerrillas.
To rebuild itself, the guerrilla nuclei held two conferences in 1965 and 1966. In the first one, they debated an agrarian program; in the second, they founded the FARC. In that same period other guerrilla organisations arose: the ELN (National Liberation Army, Castroites) in 1965 and the EPL (People's Liberation Army, Maoists) in 1966. In the next decade the M-19 was formed. Each of these guerrilla groups can be characterised as petit bourgeois armed movements for 'armed reformism'. Their rank and file militants came from the peasantry. Their objective was to create a democratic political space for a bourgeois opposition, fortifying in this way the national economy, without altering the class relations.
In the decade of the 70's and 80's, with the deepening of the economic crisis, the revolts among the farmers were more intense and the FARC and the other guerrilla groups headed those mobilisations. In 1984 the FARC signed with President Belisario Betancur (1982-1986) "an agreement of cease-fire", where they proposed to become the civil opposition under the name of Unión Patriótica (UP). The UP program declared their intention "together with other left parties and democratic movements the fight of the popular masses for the return of normality and a clean democratic game, which guaranties the opposition the access to all mass media, its right to organize, its right to fight and mobilize in order to create a climate of popular participation in the managements of the State" (program quoted in the Commemorative Declaration of the 30 years of the FARC-EP).
The result of the peace agreements was the murder of 5,000 popular leaders on the hands of the paramilitary forces of the Army. When the elected parliamentarians belonging to the UP were assassinated in 1987 the FARC broke the truce. In spite of this grim lesson, in 1990 M-19 and a sector of the EPL laid down their arms and joined the bourgeois opposition, securing the M-19's leader Navarro Wolf a place in the Government as Minister of Health.
Throughout the 1970's the FARC remained a guerrilla movement with little political influence. In the areas it controlled it protected the narcotics traffickers in return for a "Revolutionary Tax". With these resources the FARC was able to build in many zones a military arsenal almost equal to that of the Colombian Army.
The growth of the FARC in the last years as the most important opposition to the imperialistic Government with increasing influence over extensive farmer zones, is a direct result of the complete integration into the Bourgeois State of both the former guerrilla organisations and the civil and union opposition. The military capitulation of the M-19 and its integration to the civil bourgeois opposition where it co-sponsors attacks on the masses, reinforced to the eyes of the mass movement, mainly of the peasantry, the necessity of an armed fight against the Government.
On the other hand, the Communist Party, the MOIR (Independent and Revolutionary Labour Movement) and the unions (CUT, CTC, FECODE, etc.), have always supported a systematic policy of class collaboration as tools of the traditional bourgeois parties. In the 1998 elections there was no candidate, even a reformist one, linked to the labour movement. The non-existence of a strong party based in the workers mass movement in the cities, and the decomposition of the former guerrillarist left with its complete failure to make an alternative to the bourgeois opposition, left a political vacuum, which was occupied quickly by the FARC.
At the same time that the FARC gained influence with the masses, its political strategy and its program reinforced its character as a guerrilla movement that does not have the objective of destroying the Bourgeois State and of taking the power from the capitalists. Instead the FARC is an army that is used to press for elementary democratic reforms to the bourgeois regime, similar to the EZLN of Mexico. In this sense, the FARC are different from the Central American guerrillas which came to power in the decades of the 70's and 80's (like the FSLN), which in spite of reformist programs, established a new political regime where the institutions of the Somocist State were destroyed (Parliament, Justice, Army), giving rise to new political institutions under the control of the FSLN. The new regime led by the Sandinistas (who did not wish to carry out a complete rupture with the bourgeois order) later made major concessions to capital, and collaborated in the reconstruction of the Bourgeois State, before finally returning state power to the parties representing imperialism.
The petit bourgeois's program of the guerrilla, by means of petit bourgeois parliamentary opposition or through the armed fight, is totally unable to take care of the farmers and worker's demands, and to fight for the revolutionary destruction of the Bourgeois State. So the political platform of the FARC limits itself propping up the swaying bourgeois democracy of Colombia, constituting itself as an auxiliary force of the "patriotic and progressive" sector of the national bourgeoisie. But this policy is both utopian and reactionary since it is impossible to reconcile the interests of the bourgeoisie and their Capitalist State (dominated by Imperialism) with the demands of the masses. This lesson becomes still more evident if we remember the capitulation to the bourgeois State of the FSLN (Nicaragua), the FMLN (El Salvador), as well as the policy of popular fronts in Chile and Spain, all of which resulted in major bloody defeats for the labour movement, and fortifying the pro-imperialistic bourgeois counterrevolution.
To unite the offensive of the guerrilla to the fight of the masses by the revolutionary overthrow of Pastrana and the Bourgeois and Imperialist rule
The successive "peace agreements" with the guerrillas allowed the democratic regime to prolong its life until today. The urban labour movement, in spite of two important strikes against the government of Pastrana (teachers and state workers October 98 and May 99 respectively), has been victim of the policy of defeat and class collaboration of the opposition parties (PC, MOIR, and the unions led by them). The guerrillas program is still the same as that of the UP: "The use of dialogue as a possible tool for realising peace with social justice and the introduction of a series of political, economic, social and structural measures that eliminate the deep social inequalities expressed by the crisis that affects the nation". (Resistencia, February-April/99).
The strategy of the FARC therefore consists of pressuring the bourgeoisie to make some reforms of the political regime by acting as a 'left' force in a future bourgeois democratic government, as it reveals the Declaration of the International Commission of the FARC-EP/May 1998: "Any process must have as its first task the creation of a Constituent Assembly that changes the relations in Colombia in favour of the popular sectors". The peace process must: "contribute to the organisation and the fight of the Colombians for a generous and democratic mother country, for the constitution of a government of national reconciliation, and for plural, democratic and patriotic reconstruction" (ídem). All the programmatic formulations of the FARC are filled with class collaboration, where the proletariat and the peasantry, instead of exerting their own dictatorship, are subordinated "democratically" to sectors of the national bourgeoisie. That is the essence of the policy of national reconciliation that the FARC wants to reconstruct on a new bourgeois basis in the Capitalist State. However, in spite of their clearly reformist program, the economic and political crisis objectively pushes the FARC to be an alternative to the politically bankrupt government of Pastrana, constituting itself as a popular catalyst for hatred of the regime. This starting point is the one that must guide the intervention of the masses and the revolutionaries in the Colombian guerrilla struggle. This is necessary to avoid repeating the tragedies of Nicaragua and El Salvador, where the guerrilla leaders were able to impose historical defeats on the proletariat. Class militants and organizations which call themselves revolutionary must take part actively in the political defense of the military union with the guerrilla in their actions against the government; at the same time raise an anticapitalist and antimperialist program; openly breaking with the national bourgeoisie and advocating an agrarian reform through the expropiation the large estates, the great factories and multinationals, and the nationalisation of the financial system under the control of the masses; and repudiating the internal and external debts in open rupture with Imperialism.
Only the labour movement and its political organizations can turn aside the guerrillas from th eir course of class collaboration and impose a revolutionary program for the Colombian masses that will coordinate the guerrilla offensive in the country with strong mobilizations of masses in the cities. The guerrilla is not immunized from the pressures of the urban labor movement once this is mobilized. The guerrilla offensive based on peasant struggles is drawn to negotiation and class peace dialogue, but it is also responsive to the grave social crisis that forces a more open fight against the national bourgeoisie and Imperialism. The radicalized base of the guerrillas, the rise of the farmer movement, and the big fights of the masses in the cities, make it possible to the FARC to go beyond its immediat e objective of finding an agreement with the Government.
In order to stop that happening, the Government tries for negotiation, an an agreement with the guerrillas, since a confrontation with the FARC could bring further struggles in the labor movement and the farmers due to the serious social crisis. That is why the dialogues with the guerrillas were intensified during the strike of teachers in May, and promoted by the visit of the President of stock-market of New York, Richard Grasso, to the FARC in its own zone.
The 10 months of initial negotiations with the guerrillas fortified Pastrana, giving him a relative social base to go ahead the pro-imperialistic plan that his predecessor Ernesto Samper was unable to implement. According to the calculations of the Government, a suspension of hostilities would allow for a growth of 4 points in the GDP, reversing the expected negative growth in the economy. This is the reason why important sectors of the bourgeoisie and Imperialism consider the policy of "peace" good for business putting off the imminent economic bankruptcy.
Encouraged by the negotiation with the Government, the guerrillas showed that their interests are completely different from those of the exploited, and operate to weaken the popular masses demands. This policy of the FARC in the middle of the 'fight of professors' produced an enormous confusion among workers, especially when the main leader of the guerrillas, Manuel Marulanda, called for the town to participate actively in the peace process. That was made worse when the guerrillas made no declaration of support to the urban strikers, nor made the demands of these strikers, pre-conditions in their negotiations with the Government.
Far from supporting the strategy of "peace dialogue" between the FARC and the government, and maintaining the isolation between the guerrillas and the mass movement, the workers organizations must coordinate common political actions with the FARC and other guerrilla organizations to bring about the revolutionary overthrow of Pastrana and the bourgeois regime. This call is even more important in the face of the imminent threat of a military intervention of Imperialism directed not only against the narcotics traffickers and the guerrillas, but also to defeat the whole of the labor movement and the popular masses of the country.
It is necessary to support the military offensive of the guerrillas in the sense of placing it in the hands of the labor and farmer movement and to mobilise a popular insurrection in all Colombia. The Government of Pastrana negotiates with the guerrillas looking for their unconditional demilitarization, while it carries out the most ferocious of the wars against the conditions of life of the masses (reform to the conditions of work, elimination of the minimum wage, price increase of fuels, cuts in education and health). Its development plan "To change for constructing the peace" approved by Parliament, is designed to make the farmers and workers pay the massive external debt of 35% of the national budget, bringing about the worse social crisis in Colombia's history.
The proletariat defends the petit bourgeois democracy in its fight against reaction and imperialism, but it must do so without trusting in it and knowing that in the end it must attack the proletariat. The FARC and the ELN were not born out of the workers movement and they don't express workers class interests. Their aim is to reconstruct the bourgeois state and defend capitalism. The guerrillas do not want to destroy the bourgeois state. Their aim is to get better conditions by making a deal withi the country's bosses. The guerrillas are historically condemned to confront the working class to defend their own class base. We already saw how the M-19 joined forces with the government to suppress strikes and other guerrillas. We saw how the Sandanistas in power repressed workers and peasant organisations.
That is why it is essential to maintain the working class independence and political opposition towards the anti-imperialist petit bourgeois. While we need to make united anti-imperialist united front action with it, at the same time we must organnise independently workers, peasant and popular militias and councils.
The proletarian strategy has to be quite different from that of the guerrillas. Our task is to help to create strong, massive and combative organs of workers, peasant and popular power. The mechanisms that the proletariat must use are those of the direct action of the masses, the street demonstrations, the occupations of land and enterprises, and the general strike. While the guerrillas want to subordiante the workers and prevent its independent organisation to facilitate their agreement with the reactionary forces, our aim is to oppose any government of the FARC, or any government based on a coalition between the FARC and the proletariat. The FARC in power would repeat the same experience of Bolivia in 1952 and Nicaragua in 1979.
In the event that the COORDINADORA GUERRILLERA SIMÓN BOLÍVAR became a dual power with the indisputable support of the masses, our policy must be to demand that it to take power, despite the fact that we would not join that government. This would help our task of unmasking them.
We demand that the FARC breaks with its reform program and its conciliation with the old reactionary order. We demand that it calls for the formation of mass organs of workers and peasants power. The urban and rural toilers should build their own militias that are subordinated to the rank and file bodies. We call on the toilers to trust only their own forces and to struggle for their own workers' and peasants' revolution and government (dictatorship of the proletariat). Instead of making a deal with the paramilitaries we need to organise popular self-defence militia to smash them. It is necessary to disarm the paramilitaries and the armed and police forces to impose democracy.
The workers should fight against Pastrana and any other bourgeois regime. They must not allow the replacement of Pastrana with any other reactionary, but instead substitute for the bourgeois state a workers state commanded by the urban and rural poor. For these reasons it is necessary that the Colombian proletariat organises itself and that through its strikes, demonstrations, occupations of workplaces and other direct actions, should become the axis of the struggle against the capitalist system and for the overthrow of the dominant order.
Fight the imperialistic intervention with the revolutionary unity of the masses of the city and the countryside
Yankee Imperialism, under the pretext of fighting drug trafficking, is using the antiterrorist committee of the O.A.S. to launch a multinational force (commanded by Argentina) in Colombia to attack militarily the FARC and the ELN, if the Government loses control over the situation. The Argentine president Carlos Menem declared "If Colombia requests it, Argentina, because of solidarity, will be there" (Folha of San Pablo 26-7-99). At the same time, the director of the DEA promised President Andrés Pastrana, when he visited a military base, that more resources for the Army and more North American instructors, together with a battalion of 950 men to act in the zones controlled by the FARC would be provided.
The 'war' against drugs is an old imperialist demogogic claim that has been used to justify its interference in the internal affairs of other nations. Drugs are produced in poor countries because the imperialist countries demand it and prevent alternative crops from being produced. Cocaine which is grown in the Andes could easily by substituted by other drugs produced elsewhere including the USA. We are for the decriminalisation of drug consumption. We are against all repression of the peasants that produce coca and the cocaine users. The narco-trafficers should be expropriated and coca production put under workers' control for medical use.
Imperialism, using at the same time the policy of "peace" and military intervention, looks for the best way to continue re-colonizing Colombia. For that reason a policy of working class independence is necessary that rejects the attempt of imperialistic intervention and denounces the fraudulent and reactionary character of the current peace accords.
This policy corresponds to the revolutionary organizations who stood unconditionally in the trenches in Yugoslavia when NATO bombed Serbia (military action which was justified by Imperialism with the pretext of defending the autonomy of Kosovo) . We must direct all our energies against this possible imperialistic intervention in an opressed Latin American nation, defending the guerrilla groups from imperialism and its lackeys, despite the political differences that we have with them. The farmers and the masses workers of the cities need a strategy opposed to the one defended by the FARC. For that reason, we must fight uncompromisingly against an imperialistic intervention in Colombia, demanding that all the guerrilla groups place all their military and human resources under the service of the revolutionary union between the workers of the fields and the cities, against Imperialism and all its bourgeois agents.
The proletariat needs a revolutionary party. That party's strategy should be to develop workers direct democracy and mass organisations until they are powerful enough to make a socialist revolution. This revolutionary strategy is clearly opposed to that of the petit bourgeois which aims to reconstruct the capitalist state and which must ally with the bourgeoisie against the workers.
The revolutionary party must be an internationalist party. It should appeal to the international unity of the working classes of all the world including the USA. Its aim must be to smash capitalism and establish a Socialist United States of all the Americas.
We call on all workers and anti-imperialist organisations to make demonstrations against the imperialist intervention in Colombia and to coordinate international strike actions demanding the expulsion of the Yankee troops from Colombia.
5 of August of 1999
Internacionalist Bolshevik Liaisson- LBI (Brazil)
Revolutionary Working Party - POR (Argentine)
Ortodox Trotskyist Group (Brazil)
Liaison Committee of Militants for a Revolutionary Communist International - CEMICOR/LCMRCI: Workers Power (Bolivia-Peru), Workers Comunist Group (New Zealand)
Solirarity group (Germany)