We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Insurgency, conflict, and communalism in Colombia

Click here to access this fairly lengthy interview conducted by Janet Biehl, a companion of Murray Bookchin for many years, with José Antonio Gutiérrez D., a Colombian activist teaching in Ireland.

I have followed events in Colombia sporadically for the past several decades. The country has always impressed me as being steeped in the most extreme form of class war, drug kings, terrorism, brutal paramilitary armies, assassinations of unionists, teachers, organizers, etc. And, of course as usual, the leaders of this country have always enjoyed strong support of US leaders and the US ruling capitalist class. 
The US gives money to Colombia for eradication purposes, but the government mainly uses it against insurgents, in the areas that are under FARC influence, and not in areas controlled by right-wing paramilitaries, who operate in compliance with the national army more often than not.

The point is, it’s the lower chains of production that absorb the risk; the peasants in Colombia and, the small-time street dealers in the US. They bear the brunt of the War on Drugs. The cocaine users on Wall Street are never touched. Nor are the financial advisers, the real estate dealers, all the rest who participate in the most profitable activities in this industry. It’s the peasantry that carries the burden. The narcotics mirage distorts our understanding of the basic reality of class struggle.

Judged by its own stated objectives, the War on Drugs has been a failed policy. .... It succeeds in driving drug prices up. And being a criminal operation is part of what makes the drug industry profitable. It also helps drive peasant farmers off the land, and it allows the US to meddle in Latin American affairs with absolute impunity, as some form of moral crusader.
But this article has given me hope that things are changing for the better politically, at least for the numerous small farmers.
...a new way of doing things is coming into being, although I wish it were more horizontal. But each struggle is what it is, and you have to work with what you have and try to improve every day. But there’s a lot of participation today, far more than in traditional politics. The guerrilla force [FARC] has taken a step back, and that space has been reclaimed by communities working in a more autonomous way. That is starting to happen in many parts of the country. People come to meetings. They can speak freely in the assemblies.