Colombia: Theses on the National Strike

The movement in Colombia that successfully beat back Duque’s tax theft is at a crucial juncture. Our Colombian comrades have written the following 10 theses for how the struggle must proceed. The logic of this fight is a struggle for power with the regime. The main slogan must be: Duque Out!

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1. The national strike that started on April 28 marks a turning point in the class struggle in Colombia. The withdrawal of the tax bill is a monumental victory, although a partial one. Historically speaking, the Colombian ruling class has wielded its repressive apparatus with impunity and without a whit of concern for its reputation amongst the international community. On this occasion, the oligarchy has been forced to back down against the strength of the masses of workers, peasants, and indigenous peoples, with the youth playing an advanced role. Neither repression, militarization, nor the fear of the pandemic managed to stop the powerful mobilization of the masses, who remained on the streets even though they were abandoned by the trade-union bureaucracy that called for the strike in the first place. We must highlight the heroic uprising in Cali that effectively sparked the flame. The victory will propel an enormous awakening in the mobilization and organization of the masses after the strike.

2. We’re seeing this partially with the continuation of the strike beyond the withdrawal of the tax bill. “The Strike Doesn’t Stop” and “Duque Out” have become the main slogans. It’s clear that the masses have enough energy to take things to their logical conclusion. But there’s no leadership, even from the reformist left. The masses cannot hold out forever. An action plan, a program, and organization are needed in order to coordinate this process.

3. The tax bill came into being due to the necessity of the Colombian state to lower the rising fiscal deficit, which could reach 10 percent of GDP this year. This is the result of the worldwide crisis of capitalism, aggravated and accelerated by the pandemic’s impact. On top of this, the domination of imperialism over Colombia expresses itself as an asphyxiating external debt of US$156,834,000,000 (51.8 percent GDP, projected to come up to 62.8 percent). Someone must pay for this crisis and the ruling class has no interest in doing so. This was demonstrated when the finance minister that wrote the tax bill ignored the recommendations made by the state-appointed expert committee to tax the highest earners first. The attempt to make the workers and the middle layers pay for the crisis was the spark that ignited the masses’ accumulated rage, due to the assassination of trade union leaders and activists, and the youth having been doomed to unemployment and the criminal management of the pandemic.

4. The Colombian ruling class, in the last few years, has not been able to rule in the same way as in the last few decades. The vote percentage garnered by the reformist Gustavo Petro in the 2018 election, the General Strike of 2019, and the uprisings in September of 2020 against the murder of Javier Ordoñez by police were all clear signals of a growing accumulation of discontent that threatened to explode to the point that the ruling class could not maintain the same iron grip on the situation that had defined them. This led to splits in the oligarchy, with different positions. There are proponents of UBI, proponents of a tax bill that actually taxes the capitalists and increases the state’s income to pay the foreign debt, with all sorts of camps in between. In general, it’s clear that there’s no unity in the government when it comes to deciding on a course of action in this crisis. Not only that, but that the power struggles between the traditional parties, Uribismo (the followers of the infamous butcher, Alvaro Uribe Velez) and the regional oligarchical families (the Chars, the Gneccos, the Gerleins, the Aguilars) are losing their credibility and their ability to act, although this has not been eliminated completely.

5. As a result of the enormous pressure of the general strike, we’ve seen small and isolated, but nevertheless significant displays of cracks in the state apparatus. There’s been isolated cases of fraternization between army soldiers and protestors. It’s important to agitate towards soldiers, who come from working-class and peasant families. We must raise the need to set up soldiers’ committees, the dismissal of officers appointed by the state and the election of officers by the soldiers themselves.

6. Duque, as a result of his clumsy decisions, and confronted with a popular movement that has no intentions of retreating, wants to use both the carrot and the stick. At the same time as he sends the army to Cali and paramilitary groups are arming themselves in the rich neighborhoods, he has proposed to establish a dialogue with the leadership of the movement and the trade unions that called for the strike of April 28 that lit the spark that started all of this. We must be clear: we cannot have any dialogue with the repressors of the Colombian workers, who have deployed the police and the army to drown the movement in blood, and who support the weakening of the working-class movement. The main task of the movement is to reach the unity that allows this movement to openly challenge the state for political power. This period’s watchword must be: “Duque Out!”

7. The neighborhood committees must be extended all over the country. It is on the basis of these bodies that we must elect democratic committees with elected delegates, subject to recall, that coordinate the struggle in every city and department. The masses have demonstrated enormous strength, carrying out a general strike for seven days after the withdrawal of the infamous tax theft. But the energy of the masses is not infinite. Without a plan to challenge for power, nothing can be achieved. It is urgent that the Strike Committee that are currently leading the strike calls for a National Congress of Strike Councils, where delegates from each council can consider a plan to challenge and defeat the government of Ivan Duque and the ruling class that props up his government and will effectively oversee a transition of power in case that Duque ends up being deposed. Against the repression of the state and the paramilitary groups, it is imperative that the movement organizes defense committees, following the model of the Indigenous Guard and the First Line.

8. The need for a workers’ party with a socialist program could not be clearer. The movement has taken by surprise every element that attempts to represent the interests of the Colombian working class. The most important task of the moment is to take the ongoing process from the realm of spontaneity to the realm of organization. A party that attracts the best elements of the working class (those who want to overthrow the capitalist system and are willing to sacrifice time and energy to the cause) could play a fundamental role at the time of carrying out these events to their logical conclusion:

9. Socialism. The reformists, both foreign and Colombian, propose that Colombia needs to become a more democratic country and achieve a ‘human, conscious and democratic capitalism’. We must be clear: the Colombian bourgeoisie, backwards and held under the thumb of American imperialism, does not want to nor can it actually invest in the productive capability of the Colombian economy. This is because the external debt and the role of imperialism impede the possibility of investment (due to cost) or reform (due to the alteration of the social equilibrium) The pressure of the Colombian ruling class against such a social project would be backed by the United States, which still has bases on Colombian soil. This would be too much for any reformist president to overcome. It’s necessary for the Colombian working class to take the reins of their own destiny, at the forefront of the oppressed. It must build a workers’ government that seizes upon the commanding heights of the economy, to refuse to pay a single cent of the foreign debt and to take on the historic tasks that the Colombian bourgeoisie was unable to fulfill: political and financial independence, land reform, full democratic rights, justice against the violence of the landlords in order to take on the historical tasks of the proletariat: the creation of a planned economy under worker’s democratic control so that the working class can govern.

10. All of these achievements would be monumental for a working class that has lived through decades of repression and absolutely cruel living and working conditions. But if the honor of leading the first socialist revolution of the 21st century were to fall into the hands of the working class of Colombia, it could only be defended and struggle for these revolutions with the international support of the working classes of the world, that allows it to confront and overthrow capitalism at a global level. This would prevent the isolation that facilitates the blockades that have defined the experiences of building socialism in Cuba and Venezuela. The task of the working class with such a victory would be to enter the theater of the class struggle, wielding the red flag and advocating for the cause of the liberation of the world’s proletariat in order to preserve and defend the Colombian Socialist Revolution and build the Socialist Federation of Latin American States, as a first step towards Socialist World Federation.


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