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The peace accords will bring about the changes the country needs – so that nothing changes
9 May 2016. A World to Win News Service. The following text, dated 1 May 2016, was posted on Aurora Comunista (acgcr.org), the Website of the Revolutionary Communist Group (GCR) of Colombia. We have added explanations in brackets. The parentheses are from the original.
By way of background: Civil war has raged in the countryside of Colombia repeatedly during the last centuries and almost without interruption for the last seven decades.
The years 1948-58 saw rural warfare between the Conservative and Liberal parties in which many thousands of peasants and rural labourers died. After a pact between these two parties brought an end to that war, government forces soon launched assaults on rural areas that had become strongholds of the Communist Party. In 1964, that party formed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which at one time controlled or contested much of the country. The current round of peace negotiations between the government and the FARC began in Oslo in 2012 and is continuing in Cuba. Although the negotiators missed their self-imposed March 2016 deadline, both sides say they are in the final phase of reaching a comprehensive agreement. The National Liberation Army (ELN), a guerrilla organization formed in 1967, began separate public negotiations with the government in March.
The Colombian state and the FARC guerrilla army, which announced they were entering peace talks in late 2012, are about to reach a final agreement. Despite the tug of war of the last few days, the peace talks with the ELN, announced a few weeks ago, will reach the same end point before too long.
The fact that the accords have reached this juncture has begun to calm the contradictions among the ruling classes (and their political and literary representatives) regarding whether or not to bring about a negotiated end to the “conflict” (which sometimes seems to be the well-known “good cop/bad cop” game). But on the other hand questions are continuing to grow among the masses of people, not only about the peace negotiations but also about the struggle FARC and the ELN have been waging for half a century. In order to clear up some very widespread confusion about basic issues, the following points have to be made:
- Humanity’s suffering is the result of the imperialist capitalist system that integrates billions of people into production networks (networks of exploitation, actually) that are highly coordinated on the world level. All the wealth is accumulated by a handful of people in a handful of countries, without planning to satisfy the needs of humanity and consideration of the environmental impact. Each bloc of capital is compelled to concentrate greater riches, to expand or die, in competition with other blocs of capital, not only in clashes between corporations and big business but also rivalries between imperialist countries that reach the point of war.
- Imperialism is not just a set of policies. It does not just mean the extraction of wealth by means of unfair trade or the open looting of third world countries; although it does mean that, too. It is a system in which monopolies and financial institutions control the economy and political structures in their home country, such as the US, and the whole world. The economies and lives of the people in the countries oppressed by imperialism, which are actually semi- or neo-colonies, like Colombia, are subordinated to the accumulation of capital based in the imperialist countries.
- Imperialism is not just “external” to the semi- (or neo-) colonial countries, nor are the multinational companies. Even where capitalist relations have been widely introduced in the oppressed countries, they are not on the road to independent capitalist development and their economies are increasingly disarticulated and distorted, while at the same time sectors of these economies are increasingly articulated to the imperialist system. Thus the development of capitalism in the oppressed countries means the development of imperialist capital.
- National agricultural systems have been transformed into globalized components of transnational production and marketing networks. Agriculture is increasingly losing its “fundamental” role in many third world economies. Imperialism has led in the conversion of land previously used to produce food into land used to produce ethanol and other forms of agriculturally-based fuels, which exacerbates these tendencies even further.
- Among other kinds of distortions produced by this kind of development, it expropriates a large part of the peasantry and other traditional classes without being able to profitably employ them. The result is an enormous “marginal” urban population that finds itself underemployed or permanently unemployed, and an enormous waste of labouring people in the countryside. Colombia, for example, imports more than ten million tonnes of food per year.
- Under the logic of this profit-driven system, it is “normal” that while the world produces enough food to feed one and a half times its present population, hunger stalks more than a billion of the planet’s seven billion people. This happens in what we are told is the best of all possible worlds!
- The elites of these countries use violence by the military, police and/or paramilitaries to clear the ground for big agro-industrial projects, and mining, energy and infrastructural schemes.
Colombia has more internally displaced people than any other country except Syria, about six million. Millions more have emigrated to neighbouring countries, as well as North America and Europe.
- Colombia is distinguished as a country of regions that have revolved around four big cities. The urban elites delegate the specific functioning of the rural and peripheral areas to local elites through a mutually beneficial, reciprocal system: the local elites get to rule as they like and have representation in Congress in return for guaranteeing their political support and acceptance without in any way really defying the overall rules of the game established by the elites in the capital or nationally. A combination of strong centralism in essence and a “decentralization” in management of the territories. This explains the existence of regional chiefdoms.
- Today’s state, despite its democratic rhetoric and electoral prancing, is basically a dictatorship of the ruling classes (local and foreign big companies and landlords), as proved by tens of thousands of cases of political repression, forced disappearance and the rape and murder of innocent people perpetrated by the armed forces and police no matter which political party is in power.
- The state is extremely corrupt, working hand in glove with with organized crime and servile toward imperialism, particularly US imperialism. But this is not essentially due to the character of the individuals in power. Rather, the state as such serves and must serve to defend and reproduce the relations of exploitation and oppression of the vast majority of people by a tiny minority. It serves to defend and reproduce the current system that is principally capitalist (intertwined with elements of semi-feudalism) and subordinated to imperialism. No change in the persons or parties in the existing state is going to change its basically repressive character. This is the state that FARC wants to be part of.
- The peasant resistance that gave rise to FARC a half century ago was just. It is more than right to rebel against the injustices of this system. And it is normal that this rebellion reach the level of armed struggle. But that’s not enough.
- FARC was born “resisting the oligarchical violence that political crime systematically uses to liquidate the democratic and revolutionary opposition, and as a peasant and people’s response to the aggression of the feudal and other landowners that drenched the fields of Colombia in blood as they stole the lands of peasants and settlers.” ([FARC commander Alfonso] Cano, quoted by [FARC negotiations team head] Ivan Marquez in October 2012 in Oslo). Thus, since the beginning FARC did not seek to get to the root of the problem.
- What the FARC has sought is more like “capitalism with a human face”, a more equitable distribution of wealth and the “perfection” of democracy. In Marquez’s words, what they seek is “a peace that brings about a profound demilitarization of the state and radical socio-economic reforms based on true democracy, justice and freedom… Let us hold high the banners of change and social justice”, “expose the criminality of finance capital, indicting neoliberalism [free market economics]”, and achieve “the efficacious and transparent agrarian reform for which the armed people have been struggling for years” (October 2012). Thus FARC’s target has not been capitalism, semi-feudalism and imperialism, but “unfettered capitalism”, “the neo-liberal model”, “Imperial interference”, inequity, etc.
- FARC’s ambitions in regard to the land question are even lower than those of [Liberal Party president Alfonso] López Pumarejo during the 1930s and [Liberal Party president Carlos] Lleras Restrepo in the 1960s, and even the proposals of the early 1950s World Bank mission whose architect was Lauchlin Currie [former economics advisor to US president Franklin Roosevelt].
- What FARC has sought is to “create a socialism that is not like those that have failed or are barely surviving, (but) one in which all Colombians have a place… as well as entrepreneurs and foreign capital, like the Scandinavian systems, in Norway and Sweden, where relations between the state, owners and workers are very good, with high living standards and social benefits… What we want is a more just and egalitarian society… where big employers make money but also contribute to social development.” (Raul Reyes, interview in Clarin, October 1999). This so-called Nordic “socialism” has a name: imperialist capitalism. The “contributions to social development” made by “big employers” come from the exploitation of children, women and men of third-world countries.
- The world has changed enormously over the last half century and these changes have had an effect on FARC, although not decisively.
- The fall of the Soviet social-imperialist bloc in 1989-91 made it possible, under the leadership of Yankee imperialism itself, for pro-Soviet guerrillas to fulfil their political programme by non-armed means. Central America provided a “successful” case of this. Nevertheless, the Colombian ruling classes and imperialism aborted the peace process of that period. FARC continued its armed struggle while holding on to the hope of finding a negotiated solution and becoming part of the system when more favourable conditions arose.
- Colombia went from having an economy based on the export of coffee to one based on dollars from oil sales, and, to no small degree, drug trafficking. Today it is a predominantly urban country. Capitalism has thoroughly penetrated the countryside and cities.
- Over the last few decades the Colombian armed forces have been built up enormously. The paramilitary groups have become more powerful and integrated into the system on a national level to clear the way for increased imperialist penetration.
- These and other changes in the country and the world do not make a real revolution less necessary, less possible or less desirable. They make it even more urgent.
- To take on the repressive forces of the Establishment requires courage and sacrifice, but that does not define the correctness or incorrectness of anyone’s ideological and political line. Many people give primary emphasis to the sacrifice and devotion to the cause of those who put their life on the line in armed struggle, even if their aims are narrow. But sacrifices, no matter how great, and intentions, as good as they may be, are not enough to get to a truly new country and world. We can’t fall for the false alternatives offered by the country’s current polarization, which would have us believe that anyone who does not agree with the line of the traditional guerrilla forces is part of the system (or echoing the reactionaries).
- The choice of means to achieve political power is not what defines the character of a struggle or organization. It must be made clear that radical ends require radical means, including revolutionary violence, but what’s decisive is: for whom and for what?
- It has to be clearly and frankly stated: FARC (like the ELN) does not and has not represented revolution. They have not represented the struggle for radical transformation, the struggle for real socialism as a society in transition to what was well defined by Marx (and popularized in Mao’s China) as “the four alls”: the abolition of all class distinctions, all the production on which they rest, all the social relations that correspond to those relations of production and the revolutionization of all the ideas that correspond to those social relations.
- The peace negotiations process has served and will serve to (further) legitimate the current system and reformism, and to de-legitimate the choice of revolution in the eyes of the people, a delegitimization taken to an unprecedented level by the reactionary offensive after the fall of the Soviet Union and its fake socialism. But it is also an important occasion for many more people to be able to compare and contrast all the aspects of the revolution we need with the true objectives of the forces that have sought to reform the system by radical (armed) means and those trying to do the same thing within the legality of the current system. None of them have truly radical aims.
- Yes, many changes will be launched. But the changes due to the peace agreements are changes whose purpose is to allow the system to continue functioning as always. The same thing would happen if FARC or the ELN were to come to power. Different changes, a different kind of changes, are needed, to move toward a repolarization of society, developing a truly revolutionary pole.
What is the change we really need? Actually, what we need is a revolution, but a real revolution. Sooner or later, everyone who is serious about stopping the outrages perpetrated by imperialist capitalism will have to break with this system’s institutions, representatives and way of thinking, and get organized to really do that. The important thing is that a solution to the problem DOES exist, and people have to engage with it and get into it. A better world IS possible. And FARC and the ELN are part of the problem standing in the way of our reaching this better world. They are NOT part of the solution.
For those people who long for a completely different world without the madness and horrors this system brings every day, those who have dared to hope that such a world could be possible, and even those who would like to see this happen but until now have ended up accepting the idea that it could never happen: there is a place for you, there is a role to play, and it’s necessary that thousands, and, over time, millions of people contribute to building a movement for revolution, in many different ways – with your ideas and practical participation, with your help and your questions and criticisms.
To stop being victims of deception and self-deception, everyone – workers in the countryside and cities, youth in the shantytowns, women, indigenous people, African-Colombians, environmentalists – has to take up the scientific method and approach that allows a much better understanding than before of the workings of this system and how to get free of it, and more systematically apply this method and approach to reality in general and the revolutionary struggle in particular. Nothing gives life greater meaning than setting our sights on a goal that is both the greatest challenge and enormously inspiring and liberating, as well as necessary and possible: the emancipation of humanity through revolution and moving toward a communist world, a world free of exploitation and oppression.
What’s needed is Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism!
What’s needed is a real revolution – nothing less!
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