Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist)
Popular Army of Liberation (EPL)
The question of peace nowadays in any part of the world is a complicated one. The case of Colombia is not an exception, both because it is a long-standing problem of generalized violence perpetrated by the authorities and paramilitary organizations, and the popular response to it, under the influence of various factors, as well as the depth of this process that has developed for about two centuries, especially during the last 50 years.
The long and occasionally heated debate over the causes of violence in Colombia has contributed to the political and social national historiography with a large amount of materials in the form of essays, stories, novels, poetry, tales etc. The two main tendencies in world thinking are expressed in them; in essence both ways of thinking manifest themselves in the way of analyzing and studying the reality of our country:
- One tendency remains on the surface of the facts and phenomena, studies facts isolated, therefore the sources of violence during one particular historical period are necessarily different from those of other periods. The linkage between various historical facts are considered purely formally or mechanically. This way it is impossible to understand that these expressions of violence have experienced a restless process of accumulation that affects that whole society and has determined the character of its historical development.
- The other tendency leads the course of scientific analysis right to the roots of the economic, political, social, ideological, cultural, military phenomena, studies them in the concrete national and international historical context, points to their interrelation shown in the national historical process and to the relevance of these factors and the economic, political, ideological, social, military, etc. interests of the various social classes, in particular the economic interests.
It is evident; by dismembering History one breaks up the unity of the Colombian national legacy which with its richness has built up its personality and specific features as a nation which have influenced its social classes. Without such a point of view, which is dynamic and dialectical, of the class forces that emerged with the structure of society; without a dialectical-materialist conception, it is very easy to get lost in the immense sea of historical events, thus failing to disentangle the profound causes and course of the social development.
It is therefore an interplay of identities and the class struggle, the content and form that this struggle adopts, that constitutes the engine of social development. The History of societies based on class antagonism is the History of the class struggle. The History of Colombia is not a an exception to this law of social development, on the contrary it has become a tragic expression of it.
Class struggle, the engine of development
But the class struggle is waged in all fields of social life: in economics, politics, culture, ideology, military, etc. Each aspect of this class struggle adopts a particular form.
The economic struggle has confronted the classes due to gross disproportions in the appropriation, distribution and the enjoyment of material goods produced by society or given by nature, until nowadays it reaches a point where millions of dispossessed starve, what is now shamefully called absolute poverty, a point where the person actually earns much less than is necessary to survive.
There is no voluntarism in this. The unavoidable process of the economic structure of society inherits the contradictions of the society that preceded it. Today's Colombia, a capitalist society, backward and dependent on U.S. imperialism, develops and confirms the new features that give identity to the bourgeoisie, the only beneficiary of the new privileges yielded by the new type of exploitation of man by man, wage slavery.
The class struggle also develops in the political sphere. The struggle for citizens’ rights, for a decent life, for a secure life, in short, for all the Human Rights. The essence of the matter is that in Colombia these rights virtually do not exist.
The International Community is an irreplaceable witness to the brutal fascist aberrations of "Colombian democracy"; this is a fact decisive for the political confrontation, the struggle of ideas and programs for change which have been replaced by State political violence, which is impossible to deny. Official violence in all fields of political life has given rise to the popular armed response since the people were left without any other choice in order to defend their rights.
The struggle for civil rights - still waged at the level of the Constitution and laws - is criminalized since is has become a crime for which many have been jailed or even paid with their lives. Although it might sound surprising to some the era of McCarthyism is still in force in Colombia. The democratic regime has been dismantled, it has been transformed into a kind of militarized civil dictatorship. The State of Laws has been replaced by a Terrorist State. The people have been left without an alternative; thus the guerrilla war emerged, mainly in the countryside. First there appeared armed resistance during the dictatorship of the 1940-50s and subsequently it adopted the form of guerrilla warfare for political power.
The war in the history of Colombia
However, this war is in fact a continuation of the struggle for independence. Here we would like to draw the attention of the reader to the words of the Colombian writer, Professor Arturo Alape in his work "Peace, Violence: exceptional witnesses": "It is necessary to recall that shortly after the cry of Independence in 1810, the criollo notables instigated a long civil war to secure their power. This war waged under the guise of sophisticated arguments, of Federalists against Centralists, of slanders which are always used against an enemy, all ended up on the Spanish gallows of 1816, as a result of the lack of vision of the leaders of the first republic. Shortly after, in 1826, when the Colombian armies returned from Peru and Bolivia (...) the conflict broke out and continued for the whole century. In 1828 Obando y Lopez rebelled in the Cauca, in 1829 Cordoba rebelled in Antioquia, in 1830 after endless revolts the Ecuadorian and Venezuelan oligarchies dissolved Great Colombia by assassinating Sucre and carrying out coups d’etat which became a civil war in Colombia (...)" (The assassination of General Sucre is a controversial topic; we do not agree with the opinion of Professor Alape.)
To the wars among fractions described above, to what may be called a systematic war, one must add other violent actions (of pathetic dimensions), that apparently are not connected with each other; but come from the same causes, like the brutal assassination of the Liberator Simon Bolivar on a September night of 1828, the assassination of Marshal Sucre, the assassination of the liberal leader Rafael Uribe on the stairs of the National Capitol in 1914, the massacre of thousands of banana workers, thus inaugurating a new method to resolve labor and social conflicts through assassinations and massacres, which remains today the weapon of choice in the hands of the capitalists and their State. The popular leader Jorge Elieser Gaitan was assassinated on April 19, 1948, at a time when the IX Pan-American Conference, the predecessor of the OAS, was being held in Bogota; then comes the assassination of Luis Carlos Galan Sarmiento, liberal presidential candidate, a fighter against the corruption fostered by the bourgeois parties and the State. All these assassinations and many more, too many to enumerate here, were for political reasons. This is the political assassination, selective and massive, made into an instrument, a preferred argument, to resolve political, labor, social and economic conflicts.
From 1810 on the internal armed conflict and the political violence that manifested themselves in different ways developed further during the rest of the XIX century. The War of a Thousand Days crossed the XIX century. This is simply to recognize a historical truth.
Many wars took place in the XIX century: in 1828, 1830, 1832, 1839,1841, 1851, 1854, 1859, 1867, 1880, 1895, 1899. These are only expressions of how painful and full of sufferings were the last 90 years of the XIX century. The people suffered the destructive moral and material burdens inflicted by a civil war, a war that was not meant to defend their interests but was inspired, organized by the ruling classes who were the only ones who profited from it. These wars were no more than blind and miserable disputes for political power and material wealth, the Colombian soil, seas, rivers and skies. Many historians claim that between 1863 and 1884 there took place more than fifty wars instigated by heroes of the war of independence and their successors, who became kings of small Sovereign States that emerged as a result of the dismembering of the Motherland.
The new century brought new wars, with no perspective of peaceful solution. Our history is full of acts of political barbarism such as the massacre of banana workers, the massacres during the war of resistance between 1946 and 1957. During this period more than half a million were murdered by a criminal and intolerant government.
With the emergence of two political parties of the ruling classes - Liberal and Conservative Parties - new political conflicts arose, the poor masses, in particular the peasantry, became cannon fodder, not knowing the actual reason why they were giving their lives.
It is necessary to draw the attention of the reader to these historical considerations, because many still believe that violence in Colombia dates only from the assassination of Gaitan on April 9, 1948.
It should be noted that violence during the last 50 years has adopted different forms according to the character of the classes and the class struggle in the society of the second half of the XX century. In the previous stages of historical development, the confrontation involved feudal forces and those who defended the remnants of feudalism, the Conservatives, on the one hand, and the nascent bourgeois forces which pushed forward the process of capitalist development, the Liberals, on the other hand. The most prominent contradictions developed between the landowners and the bourgeoisie, and they were the main beneficiaries and protagonists.
Nowadays the main conflict is between the rich, the ruling sector of society concentrated in one faction, regardless of the two political parties of the oligarchy that may represent them, and the poor, who may or may not be affiliated to these same political parties. Therefore Gaitan insisted that hunger and malaria were neither Liberal nor Conservative, they struck mainly the poor who are unprotected from these plagues for lack both of their own resources and the protection of the State.
Almost two centuries of wars and all forms of political violence influence the idiosyncrasy and the conception of society and life of those who control the functioning of the State and society; the idiosyncrasy and the conception based on state violence as a system of government and a method to resolve social conflicts.
The persistence of wars in the historical development of our nation is fundamental to the establishment of the social-economic formation. Colombian society was constructed through wars that were provoked and supported by the ruling classes. The economic, political and juridical architecture of Colombia is determined by these facts.
The Political Constitution and war
There is no doubt the that the violent character of the class struggle gave rise to two fundamental elements: War and the National Constitution. Therefore the History of Colombia, more than that of other peoples, is plagued by wars to impose a new Constitution, or a Constitution leads to the outbreak of a war, or a that would institutionalize ad-hoc the interests of the victorious class.
Let us cite again Professor Alape: "Such are the antecedents that give birth to the XXth century. Violence had become fundamental for any political process during the first century of the republic. The system of accumulation and reproduction of capital, the system of ownership of land were established through violence. The Colombian legislation was created through violence. In fact the Constitutions of 1821, 1830, 1830, 1832, 1843, 1858, 1863 and 1886 were born and created new laws in the light of civil wars". Throughout the republican history of Colombia the so called Fundamental Law has been used to institutionalize the most diverse forms of economic, political, social, ideological and military violence.
State and violence
The present State of Colombia favors the interests of those who hold power that is materialized in its institutions. The executive, judicial and legislative branches act jointly according to this principle of capitalist society. And when the movements and organizations of the workers face the injustices of this social order by making use of the rights granted by the Constitution and the Laws, demanding a solution to the grave problems that have afflicted them for centuries, the government resorts to the law, the military, the police in order to suppress by means of institutionalized violence any manifestation of discontent.
The bourgeoisie, inspired by their mentors, the CIA and the Pentagon, has found ways of concealing their responsibilities for the most barbarous expressions of this Dirty War. In the middle of the 1980s the authorities, jointly with the chiefs of the drug traffic and some representatives of other sections of capital, created fascist bands of paramilitary. They have become in the hands of the bourgeoisie a dreadful and bloody weapon to brutalize the civil population in the cities and in the countryside, combining mass murders with selective assassination of worker, popular, progressive, democratic and revolutionary leaders.
These brutal actions have been accomplished by means of horrifying methods of extermination together with the government’s armed forces, police and other bodies of repression of the State. In some cases these crimes have been falsely attributed to the guerrillas even when evidence points flagrantly to the real perpetrators. When this happens the authorities always find a scapegoat, who is accused of the crimes so that "the State institutions (the Government, the Armed Forces and the Police) can be excluded from any responsibility and the reputation of the State remains clean". However lately these institutions openly admit to committing atrocities, threatening people and organizations with violent actions.
These organizations of criminals and assassins, supported and assisted by the State, have developed and extended their criminal influence over vast areas of the national territory. These elements undertake a campaign of mass terror with the cooperation of the State which turns a blind eye to these crimes. An increasing number of people have been affected by this violence over the past years. Over a million people, mainly peasants have been forced to flee their homes and the land where they were born and always lived because of the terror of the paramilitary. Naturally for these hundreds of thousands of terrified families the State has no solution. Silently, the State has declared itself incapable of dealing with this situation. On the contrary everybody knows who is really responsible and the supporter of this fascist monster.
People are increasingly conscious about the necessity of eradicating this phenomenon in order to achieve peace in Colombia. However some official and non-official spokesmen grant a status of a political force to these paramilitary organizations, and the status of political leaders to elements like Carlos Castaño, the "great general" of the Self-Defense Units of Colombia and the "commander in chief" of the massacres of Cordoba, Uraba and other regions of our country. This becomes understandable when the Supreme Court declared constitutional the law that legalized CONVIVIR, a paramilitary organization created by the former liberal-fascist governor of Antioquia, Uribe Velez, a well-known instigator of the paramilitary movement in his region and the country and a prospective bourgeois presidential candidate in future elections.
The regime, the crisis of the system and peace
The economic structure of the country and the model of development assumed in the Constitution and the Colombian Laws embody the unjust privileges of the bourgeoisie and foreign multinationals which inflict on the Colombian workers a cruel regime of exploitation, with no legal and peaceful way to transform this system. On the contrary, as the crisis of capitalism deepens and the destructive results of neo-liberalism are felt more acutely, the possibilities of protest have become more and more restricted. The legislative and judicial branches of power complete the iron belt that strangles the people of Colombia.
Colombia is at a crucial point of the crisis
Today's critical situation manifests itself though the deepening of contradictions between the vast majority of Colombians and the ruling castes; through the deep crisis of the State and all its institutions, the erosion of a political system that is curtailing genuine democratic liberties. The bourgeoisie proposes two models of development, on the one hand certain sectors of the ruling classes defend the old State of traditional democracy, shut off and exclusive. On the other hand those who appeal for "modernization", a superficial political reform or change a la Pastrana, which is a greater push for neo-liberalism. Both models are bourgeois, pro-imperialist, conservative in essence, never meant to favor the interests of the people.
As a result, the insurgency has become an expression of popular power and a real alternative for the people, a perspective for transformation of the reality of the country.
Today's political landscape is not very promising as a result of the factors mentioned above, the policies of the present government and the false opposition of the Liberal Party. The further application of the policies of neo-liberalism will increase unemployment, further reduce wages, further spread poverty and misery, since, as always, the burdens of the economic crisis fall on the toiling masses.
Therefore the Colombian people, justly, is exercising its right to rebellion and to resort to various forms of protest and struggle.
Thus, a few months after Pastrana took office the labor and union movement went out to the streets, held a three-week long nation-wide general strike that involved almost half million state service workers and employees with solidarity from other popular sectors. This Government which talks so much about peace responded to the popular protests with repression and a blunt denial of all the demands put forward by the movement. However this movement succeeded in curbing the arrogance of the Government inspired by the IMF and the financial institutions of imperialism.
The growing actions and military capacity of the popular armed movement has become evident in the eyes of the whole world. The insurgency has inflicted important defeats on the Police and the Armed Forces. These institutions are undergoing a crisis of credibility in the eyes of the oligarchic classes that they defend.
The government, involved in trying to suppress the revolutionary war and to win the masses to its side in case it cannot achieve its military objectives, on behalf of the oligarchy and imperialism has proposed a peace that is more a hollow political gesture than a clear program of action to achieve a long-awaited goal. The Government is in reality aiming at dissolving and disarming the guerrilla or that the latter give up its objectives of struggle for popular power. Therefore the response of the insurgency should be to make clear its political objectives and content without giving up the revolutionary military struggle.
It is true that Pastrana met with Commanders Manuel Marulanda and Briceño of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) shortly before he became president, that he approved the demilitarization of five municipalities as demanded by this guerrilla organization, and that he participated in arranging talks set for January 7, 1999, that he blessed the Accords of Maguncia and agreed, when he was in office, to hold a National Convention as proposed by the ELN (Army of National Liberation), which have no precedents in recent history; he has referred in a positive tone to the statements made by comrade Francisco Caraballo about the positions of the Communist Party of Colombia Marxist-Leninist and the Popular Army of Liberation as leader and public spokesman of these organizations. But we all know well where this limited flexibility of the Government leads in reality, as the military pressure on the regions controlled by the insurgency has not eased.
A revolutionary response to the question of peace
From the point of view of the struggle for popular power and socialism, of the struggle for new political, economic and social demands to improve the situation of the masses and to create better subjective conditions for the revolutionary struggle, the Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist) and the Popular Army of Liberation have proposed our conception for the Dialogue for Peace.
We understand it as a great political debate on a national scale among different sectors of society and we reiterate our resolve to participate in a process of Dialogue that has as its main protagonist the broad working masses of the city and the countryside.
We appreciate the courage and achievements of those non-governmental civil organizations for Human Rights, some of whom have paid with their lives and have implemented many initiatives for peace and have helped to ease the atmosphere of tension created by the state and paramilitary violence. These organizations have also become a target of official and paramilitary barbarism. The main problem here is that some of these organizations, despite their intentions and desires, do not take account of the economic interests of capital that are the genuine cause of the present conflict, thus leaving room for the so-called "passive neutrality" that eventually assists the Government in labeling the guerrilla organizations as belligerent and violent. Eventually some of these organizations have attacked the popular insurgency in order to secure their liberty and their lives.
We are in favor of establishing joint proposals with the other organizations of the Guerrilla Coordinating body Simon Bolivar. We believe it is useful and necessary for the revolutionary process to elaborate a Joint Proposal, as took place in Caracas and Tlaxcala in 1991-1992. The political debate that we propose should make room for unity and communication among all parties interested in peace with social justice that will open the way to a New Colombia. We observe that important points of identity with the proposals and some processes of dialogue have begun.
It is clear enough - as corroborated by a long History of violence - that the possibility of achieving a political solution to the Internal Conflict of Colombia is the main responsibility of the ruling class, of its political parties and its State. There is not other way: implement real changes that will solve the causes that gave rise to the political, economic, social, military, etc. conflict; another important point is that in this process there should be no intervention of the US Government and State which should respect the independent decisions of Colombians.
The correct political direction would create the necessary conditions for a secure peaceful process, without pressure and threats, a dialogue that would place at the center the great majorities of the working class and the people with the participation of the revolutionary and progressive forces, whether armed or unarmed. Our proposal for Dialogue: A feasible proposal towards an open dialogue should be enriched by broad debates in which the people should clearly express what they need, what they want, and how to achieve them.
For our part for the plan of great transformations, we propose to consider the following topics:
- Independence and self-determination in relations with other States, without forbidden areas and with the strict fulfillment of the principle of equal relations.
- The cancellation of the external debt.
- The revision of all treaties and obligations related to the protection of our natural resources.
- The examination, change and abolition of economic and military accords harmful to the nation.
In the framework of the struggle for a democratic and anti-imperialist government we propose:
- Genuine democratic changes in the structure of the State.
- Democratic liberties which would guarantee the participation of citizens in the solution of the problems of the country, the right to life and the effective respect by the State of the human rights of the people.
- The abolition of paramilitary groups.
- Substantial changes in the system of justice and its application, beginning with the abolition of faceless judges.
- Freedom for all political prisoners.
3. SOCIAL JUSTICE:
- Should be based on profound changes in the economy of the country with regard to the appropriation and distribution of goods.
- Neo-liberalism should be abolished and the economy should be reorganized emphasizing development with social welfare, without the interference of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the national and foreign monopolies.
- National industry should be stimulated and production should benefit the majority.
- Integral urban reform and agrarian reform.
- Liquidation of drug trafficking according to the criteria of national sovereignty and the substitution of cultivation based on social investment.
Moreover, we point to the validity of the following criteria related to the dialogue:
1. Peace should be based on the struggle for a new Sate and a new society, on the democratic transformation of the State and the society and in the improvement of the conditions of life and labor for the majority.
2. The decision to dialogue in the middle of the confrontation, without preconditions and openly.
3. To build the conditions that would favor the development of the broadest dialogue. The dialogue should become a great national debate; this way it would be possible to elect representatives of the regional and local masses to the dialogue.
4. The active and permanent participation of the different strata of our society. The people should democratically elect their representatives to the negotiating table with the national government; in this way representatives would be elected to regional and local negotiations.
5. The definition of an integral process of construction of peace.
6. The elaboration of an open agenda.
7. The State should protect the political rights of its citizens.
8. Paramilitary groups will not be recognized.
9. The international participation, without any interference in the internal affairs of Colombia. In this respect we are against the participation in the dialogue of institutions, governments or individuals involved in the dirty war in Colombia. In this sense we are opposed to the participation of the U.S. government in the dialogues.
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