Revolution in Colombia: ISO stands on the wrong side

By Freedom Road Socialist Organization

A call was made by progressives in Colombia, including organizations of campesinos and trade unionists to stand up to “state sponsored violence” by demonstrating on March 6. These massive demonstrations against the paramilitarism of Alvaro Uribe’s Colombian government were a step forward in the struggle of the Colombian people against the U.S. domination. The streets were filled with people who demanded justice, dignity and the right to control their own destiny.

The demands of the Colombian umbrella group, the National Movement of Victims of Crimes by the State (MOVICE) were as follows: No more common graves. No more forced displacement. No more paramilitaries. No more para-politicians. No more crimes by the state. These demands put the blame for the tens of thousands of deaths, disappearances and displacements at the feet of the paramilitaries and the Colombian military and call for an end to U.S. aid to Colombia. These are all progressive demands that should be respected and supported by revolutionaries.

This call follows on the heels of, and must be understood as a counter to, the call from Uribe for demonstrations against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the largest Marxist rebel group in the country.

Unfortunately, the U.S.-based “March 6 Coordinating Committee Against Violence in Colombia” opportunistically reworded the call so it opened with a denunciation of the FARC, running counter to the unity of the Colombian popular movement. It does this despite claiming to be “in solidarity” with MOVICE.

The U.S. Trotskyist group, the International Socialist Organization (ISO), then signed on as a sponsor of the march in New York City led by the “Coordinating Committee.”

Freedom Road Socialist Organization stands in opposition to the wrongheaded position taken here by the ISO. It is a position rooted in their Trotskyism – one more example of what Trotskyism really is: a petite bourgeois and anti-Leninist ideology which takes on the guise of being super-revolutionary while opposing actual revolutionaries in their just struggles for national liberation and socialism.

The ISO stands on the wrong side of this issue, and this is certainly not the first time this has happened. In true utopian, idealist and opportunist fashion, the ISO has denounced most every victory won and sustained by Marxist-Leninists in the name of their so-called “struggle against Stalinism.” The ISO looks at the negative aspects that will accompany any people’s struggle with a microscope, hardly giving their huge successes a cursory glance. They denounce the socialist countries, from China in the East to Cuba at the empire’s doorstep as “State Capitalist.” The ISO says the heroic revolutions led by Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro and others have nothing to do with socialism.

Regarding Cuba, for example, the ISO published in its newspaper an article arguing that, “It’s up to Cuban workers to wrestle power away from the Castro clique.” (Socialist Worker, May 23, 2003). Needless to say, we do not agree, and find this view contrary to the facts. Additionally, we find the entire anti-communist “theory” of “State Capitalism” as put forth by the Trotskyists to be utterly bankrupt. The Trotskyists cannot explain the fact that the basic and defining features of capitalism, such as the periodic crises of overproduction resulting from capitalism’s own inner motion, are absent in the socialist countries.

The ISO claims to stand for the principle of self-determination. They make all of the standard arguments: “Workers’ unity cannot be built without workers in an imperialist or oppressor country supporting the right of self-determination of the oppressed nation,” writes Paul D’Amato in the pages of Socialist Worker (June 21, 2002). This is certainly true. Without a second’s hesitation all Marxists must stand firmly for the right of oppressed nations, both at home and abroad, to liberate themselves from imperialism by any means necessary, and on their own terms. And yet, when it comes to actually standing up for that right when it is being exercised we find the ISO sponsoring demonstrations that actively follow the lead of U.S. imperialism and its puppet Uribe in denouncing the national liberation struggle.

The FARC is the leading force in the struggle for national liberation and socialism in Colombia. It has endured in struggle against U.S. imperialism and its Colombian lackeys for over four decades. It has survived the assassination by the Colombian government of over 4,000 members of the Patriotic Union (UP), the FARC-led electoral project designed to challenge the anti-democratic power sharing of the Liberal and Conservative parties in Colombia. It has even managed to stand up to $600 million of annual U.S. military aid to the Colombian government and has stood strong against the neo-colonial Plan Colombia, the U.S. plan for war in Colombia. Today the FARC controls large portions of Colombia and acts as a government in those areas. The FARC is realizing Bolivar’s dream.

So the FARC finds itself under attack from Uribe and the U.S. Uribe shut down the country, closing the schools and businesses early, so that everyone would basically have no choice but to attend his anti-FARC rally. The U.S. has just sentenced the leading peace negotiator of the FARC, Ricardo Palmera (Simon Trinidad) to 60 years in U.S. prison. Despite repeated gestures of good faith on behalf of the FARC and an unwavering desire for peace and social justice, the government of Colombia, with aid from the U.S., has just assassinated comrade Raúl Reyes in an air strike inside the borders of Ecuador. This move has put the region on guard for war.

How can the ISO make the FARC out to be the villains at a time like this? The ISO ‘upholds’ self-determination with one hand while striking it down with the other. They claim to stand for socialism while in practice they are siding with the imperialists.

ISO scorns the FARC as a bunch of “reformists.” In fact the courageous men and women of the FARC are giving their lives for a new Colombia that’s free of foreign control. The FARC are applying Marxism-Leninism to the conditions of Colombia. They should be supported.