The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army has been disarmed. After 53 years the guerrilla group is abandoning the armed struggle. Last year the government of Columbia and the FARC-EP reached a peace agreement. This agreement however was rejected by the population in a referendum. Because of the very low outcome and massive media attention from the right-wing, a very small majority voted against peace. The government had no choice but to renegotiate with the FARC-EP. Another peace deal was signed and this time only parliament had to approve. Now in June 2017, the 7.000 guerrilla fighters have abandoned their guns and are waiting to be reintegrated into Colombian society!
Capitalist media outlets portray the FARC-EP as this pure ”evil, greedy terrorist” group. Also they love point out the crime of the ”Marxist” army and how they caused death and destruction. The reality is not so black and white. It is true that many FARC-EP soldiers and commanders have committed crimes against the people of Colombia. These crimes must be investigated and those responsible should be called out. Revolutionary Socialist Media however would like to point out that most killings between 1964 and 2017 were not carried out by the FARC-EP. In fact most deaths were caused by right-wing paramilitary groups and government soldiers. The so called ”democratic” government and their far-right terror squads killed more innocent people then the FARC-EP and the ELN (National Liberation Army). The United Nations has estimated that 12% of all killings of civilians in Colombian conflict were committed by FARC-EP and ELN guerrillas, with 80% committed by right-wing paramilitaries and the remaining 8% committed by Colombian security forces!
This is a fact never reported in the western capitalist media. In the west we only see and hear the crimes of the leftist guerrilla’s. In the 1980’s, a peace deal was singed between the FARC-EP and the government. To work in a ”democratic” environment (which Colombia is not) the guerrilla’s founded a political party called the Patriotic Union (UP). It seemed that the conflict would have ended by the late 1980’s. But the central government never wanted peace. They allowed far-right terror groups to murder thousands of UP members and leaders. It is said that over 10.000 members, supporters and sympathizers of the Patriotic Union were killed by forces loyal to the capitalist establishment. Because of the many killings, the FARC-EP abandoned the peace deal and resumed the fighting. As the USSR collapsed, they needed a new source of income and so the drug trade became a vital part of the FARC-EP’s operation!
The USA is also to blame for the fact that this conflict started in the first place. Like Guatemala, Colombia was regarded as the backyard of American imperialism. The American hypocrites were key supporters of the corrupt political establishment. They supported any government that claimed to be ”democratic” and anticommunist. Millions of dollars were given and the CIA trained the special ”anti-terror” units, who later would become part of far-right squads. The most famous of these anticommunist terror groups was the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). Although the AUC was independent of the government, human rights groups have pointed out the close connection between army officials and the drug lords who founded the militia!
Colombia allowed the AUC to kidnap, torture and murder anybody they called a communist. In the first ten months of 2000 the AUC conducted 804 assassinations, 203 kidnappings and 75 massacres with 507 victims. The crimes of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia went so far that even the USA started to call them a terrorist group. But the Colombian government allowed the right-wing to carry out its bloody campaign against the FARC-EP and the ELN. In 2002, the conservative president of the country claimed he would destroy the leftist guerrilla. For his violent rhetoric he was awarded the Freedom Medal by the American president George W. Bush, who praised the president for his desire to destroy the FARC-EP. Despite the rhetoric, the Colombian government was unable to defeat the guerrilla’s. Instead it faced the AUC who started to blackmail American companies by demanding ”protection money”. American imperialism was happy when far-right terror groups killed and murdered thousands of leftists in the 80’s, but when its own creation turned on them they demanded government action!
In 2006 the bulk of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia was demobilized. But smaller pockets kept on terrorizing the poor and leftist communities. Two years before in 2004, the main leader of the AUC was murdered which led to the brake up. Carlos Castaño Gil was 38 years old when his own brother killed him in a argument. Win-out a central authority, the AUC started to fight themselves for drug money and other minor issues. It allowed the government to disarm the bulk in 2006. The formal disbanding of the anticommunist army was carried out in 2008, when Colombia extradited 13 AUC commanders to the USA. Meanwhile the FARC-EP was also losing members. It had lost the support of the urban proletariat who grew to reject their drug trade and kidnapping of innocent Colombians for ransom. Poor peasants offered the last base of support as the country side had always been neglected by the government. As FARC-EP territory became smaller and smaller, the guerrilla’s were showing signs of fatigue. After 2014, no major combat operations were carried out anymore!
Juan Manuel Santos became the next president of Colombia in 2010. He replaced the war-hawk loved by the USA. Santos is a member of the Social Party of National Unity, a liberal conservative party. Unlike his predecessor, the current president was willing to start peace talks in Cuba. These talks led to a treaty which was rejected by the population in a national referendum (due to a very low turn out). Although the polls had indicated a major YES vote, the liberal establishment had underestimated the supporters of the former right-wing president. The opponents of peace pointed out that the treaty gave too much to the FARC-EP and too little to its victims. Many urban workers choose to side with the right-wing on this. Mainly because Colombia has no genuine left-wing to fight far-right populism and nationalism. To be a leftist is still dangerous as former AUC members are still walking with their guns around, ready to kill anybody who calls himself/herself a Marxist!
A rewritten peace deal was past in parliament and led to the disarmament of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army. This was finished in June 2017. Now over 7.000 to 10.000 unarmed former guerrilla fighters are waiting in camps in their former zones. Waiting to return to a society that is still very divided. Some will have to answer for their alleged crimes. Revolutionary socialists would also love to see former AUC members and government ministers to stand trial. Because the FARC-EP is not responsible for the bulk of the killings in this 53 year conflict. The guerrilla’s were founded as a response to the undemocratic corrupt political establishment in the 1960’s. Had Colombia been a free and open society in the 60’s, the FARC-EP would not haven been founded. But the ruling class and their American allies never cared for democracy or human rights. The extermination of the Patriotic Union in the 1980’s, enforced the vision of the guerrilla’s that peace was impossible. It remains to be seen what will happen now that the FARC-EP is gone. Some say that its demise will lead to a vacuum on the drug trade. The smaller National Liberation Front (ELN) could enter the void. However it is unlikely that the 1.500 fighters of this smaller guerrilla army are able to take full control of former FARC-EP territory!
What Colombia needs is a workers party. Former guerrilla fighters need to understand that this is the only way. Guerrilla struggle was a popular idea in the 1960’s, because it worked in Cuba. But we must not forget that the Cuban Revolution was not a proletarian revolution. Fidel Castro himself said in 1959 that he was not a communist. Revolutionary socialists call for class struggle instead of armed struggle. United action of workers is the only way the ruling class of any country can be defeated. It will not be easy to win back the trust of workers in the cities. Years of anticommunist brainwashing have resulted in the fact that many Colombians think that socialism and communism are ”totalitarian” and undemocratic ideas. It is up to a workers party to show them that trusting in capitalist politicians will not change the fact that Colombia is a very unequal society. A society were the rich guard their mansions and villas against millions of poor living in slums!
Openness should be the next step. Former FARC-EP fighters and government officials must play open book. Crimes by the guerrilla’s and government forces must be made public. The working class needs to know who did what in this conflict. It is important that the people learns that most killings were carry out by groups like the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia and other militias of the drug cartels. Because few Colombians actually know this fact. They were raised with the propaganda of the government, the anticommunist lies about ”communist killers, who love to abduct and execute poor people”. The United Nations has already concluded that the FARC-EP only killed 12% of all civilian deaths. However this does not excuses the drug trade and the needless kidnapping of people like Íngrid Betancourt, who was held prison by the guerrilla’s for six years. Betancourt was not a right-wing politician, she was a member of the Oxygen Green Party. However she is deeply against the drug trade and therefore not liked by those who made millions by selling drugs. Revolutionary socialists condemn the FARC-EP for its trade in drugs and their kidnappings for ransom!
We call for a socialist Colombia to be build. A Colombia under control of workers, peasants and poor people. If the ex-guerrilla members have any ideological commitment to socialism they will join leftists and trade unionists. However it remains to be seen if the new political formation set up by the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, is actually a formation for revolutionary socialism. The Patriotic Union was set up as a leftist nationalist party, with no clear socialist program. This we have also seen in Venezuela were Hugo Chavez build a party called the United Socialist Party of Venezuela in 2007. Although millions joined, the united socialist party did not became a workers party. Chavez died and never made the move towards socialism. Venezuela then entered a crisis. With a economic collapse and a capitalist opposition rioting in the streets, the government of Nicolas Maduro is becoming more and more paranoid and authoritarian. Revolutionary socialists call on workers in Colombia to learn from the mistakes made in Venezuela. You cannot build socialism by keeping the ruling class alive as Chavez did. Socialism means the full expropriation and the nationalization of all means of production under democratic control of workers councils, not a bureaucratic state!