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Colombian civil war - the old lefts new cause celebre?

Harold | 04.12.2001 03:38

The response I received to my comments on the story "Colombian state losing war, calls for truce" (posted Nov 30, updated Dec 2)suggests that some people think any one critical of the country's guerrilla movements at best doesn't have a clue and at worst is deliberately spreading lies. This is not the first time such responses have appeared in discussions on Colombia, and is painfully reminiscent of how in the past it was sacriledge to criticize the USSR, the ANC and other state 'socialist' parties, movements and regimes.

Is the Colombian civil war the left’s new cause celebre?

I recently replied to a mainstream media article posted up at the end of November regarding the recommendations made by a Commission set up by the Colombian government and the guerrillas (the Comision de Notables), and consisted of two people picked by each side The recommendations were aimed at breaking the peace talks deadlock. As the item was from September and gave the impression that the Commission’s recommendations were about to be put into practice, I thought I had better update readers information by telling them Commision’s proposals had since been ‘sunk’. Especially as one reader already asked in response how come these proposals were going to be accepted at the same time as the Plan Colombia was being stepped up.

In looking at the reasons the Commission’s proposals have not been accepted by the state and capital, I also called into question the headline “Colombian state losing war, calls for truce”, added by the person who sent the news item. Basically, I commented that firstly the Colombian state is not losing the war, as evidenced by the huge upsurge in paramilitary activity and subsequent balance of forces. Secondly, given the composition of the Commission, which I detailed in my post, it could hardly be described as a body representing the Colombian state. I gave the guerrillas separation from mass movements as an additional reason.

Well, it looks like I committed heresy. Despite having lived in this country (Colombia) for the best part of the last decade, and having been close to people involved in all kinds of social struggles as well as those just trying to survive without getting shot each time they step out the front door, I was told by the first poster that I hardly knew what was going on. For example, he reliably informed me that 50% of municipalities were liberated and run democratically! But Colombia is a huge country, and many municipalities have a population of approximately 3 people and a dog. The point I tried to make in my posting was that while the guerrillas may have expanded in rural and jungle zones, it is the paramilitaries who are taking over control of anything resembling an urban area. But the reader seems to have been blind to the information I gave.

The second reader calling himself ‘IRA’ went even better – he titled his piece ‘Harold MI5’. Now it is true the British intelligence services have aided repression in Colombia, but I plead innocent! Seriously though, it seems a pretty crap and even dangerous way to discuss things, by calling each other government spies when we haven’t got decent arguments.
And the second reader didn’t have any arguments. He just pasted an excerpt of what I said, added a question mark, and referred to ‘you and your spooky fellows’. I guess that means spooky as in spooks, as in spies and inflitrators? He also said that as the FARC and ELN (Colombian guerrilla groups) were the only ones waging revolutionary war, we ought to support them. Well it seems to me there is nothing very revolutionary about these organizations. Communism in my book has nothing to with trying to achieve full speed technological ‘development’ and welfare reforms as both the world’s capitalist AND authoritarian ‘socialist’ regimes have done. The Maoists and the Trots call them ‘armed reformists’, and for once they are right.

Well, the general point I want to make is that it seems you cannot criticize the left nationalists of the Colombian guerrillas without being told you are totally ignorant, without being fed Orwellian type wartime information figures, and without being told you are at best an ‘anti-communist’ and at worst a government spy. Now where have we heard these attitudes before? This is the worst kind of blind support for ‘3rd world’ national liberation struggles. It is the fantasy world of first world leftists who think the Vietnam war was fantastic and, can’t we have another one?
The funny thing is that most Colombian comrades far more sympathetic to the movements in question than I am are far more critical. But when you’ve dealt with top-down Leninist organizations at first hand, you’re far more likely to be, unless you have a lot of status within such organizations.
It was bad enough having certain third worldist and stalinist groups calling for critical support for Bin Ladem and co. If the heat gets turned up in Colombia they’re all going to be at it, the whole old left. The heat might not be turned up for a while, if at all: Colombia is lower down the list than say Somalia or Iraq in terms of post Sep 11 targets. Its far more convenient for all concerned to avoid a DIRECT U.S. intervention and just keep the war going in its current form. War is the health of the state... and capital.

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Display the following 3 comments

  1. You are so right! — Daniel Brett
  2. I sympathise with you — Luther blissett
  3. bit confused — internationalist