Magazine article Monthly Review

The FARC-EP in Colombia: A Revolutionary Exception in an Age of Imperialist Expansion

Magazine article Monthly Review

The FARC-EP in Colombia: A Revolutionary Exception in an Age of Imperialist Expansion

Article excerpt

The United States and the Colombian ruling oligarchy have, since the 1960s, repeatedly implemented socioeconomic and military campaigns to defeat the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejercito del Pueblo, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP). However, this offensive, whose main purpose is to maintain capitalist accumulation and expansion, has resulted in an embarrassing setback for U.S. imperialism and the Colombian ruling class. In a time of growing and deepening U.S. imperialism, it is important to examine this failure. Over the past four decades, despite U.S. efforts, support has risen for what has been the most important continuous military and political force in South America opposing imperialism. I examine how the FARC-EP has not only maintained a substantial presence within the majority of the country but has responded aggressively to the continuing counterinsurgency campaign. I also show as false the propaganda campaign of the U.S. and Colombian governments claiming that the FARC-EP is being defeated. This analysis provides an example of how a contemporary organic, class-based sociopolitical movement can effectively contend with imperial power in a time of global counterrevolution.

Some Historical Background

Many years ago, Che Guevara drove through Colombia and wrote in his Motorcycle Diaries (Ocean Press, 2004, 157) that the so-called oldest democracy in Latin America had "more repression of individual freedom" than any other country he had visited. Since Che's journey, little has changed.

During the mid-twentieth century Colombia was to experience several firsts in Latin American. Colombia was the first state to receive assistance from the World Bank (then called the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development). It was also the first country to receive official counterinsurgency and military assistance from the United States. During the decade of the 1960s the percentage of the national budget allocated for military expenditure, for the purpose of combating peasant and guerrilla forces, was over 16 percent.

In the current period Colombia finds itself in the throes of civil war, embedded in a model of neoliberal economics and overall subordination to the United States. A small group of very wealthy landowners and capitalists within the country have the ability directly to affect governmental policy and economic conditions. Polarization of wealth is extreme. The richest 3 percent now own over 70 percent of the arable land, while 57 percent subsist on less than 3 percent of that land. The richest 1 percent of the population controls 45 percent of the wealth, while half of the farmland is held by thirty-seven large landholders. (1)

The current president, Alvaro Uribe Velez, has sought to implement a neoliberal model throughout Colombia by way of mass privatization, the removal of tariffs, and restricting labor unions. Uribe has supported measures that have reduced overtime wages, raised the age of retirement by a third, and cut the salaries of public sector workers by 33 percent. After neoliberal restructuring the disproportion in wealth yet further increased. In 1990, the ratio of income between the poorest and richest 10 percent was 40:1. By 2000 the ratio reached 80:1. (2) This economic reality underlies all political and legal events in Colombia. All hypocritical blather about democracy and the rule of law aside, the Colombian state is ruled with great brutality by what Venezuela's Chavez has termed a "rancid oligarchy," supported of course by the United States.

In the face of this reality, Colombia has maintained a strong tradition of leftist opposition. In an 1872 essay, "The Possibility of Nonviolent Revolution," Marx suggested that some countries may contain a proletariat that "can attain their goal by peaceful means"; however, he asserted, "we must also recognize the fact that in most countries" this is not the case and that "the lever of our revolution must be force. …

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