What Good Is the FARC?

In the comments section, James Schipper asks pointedly:

The FARC may not be near defeat, but it isn’t anywhere near victory either. The FARC has been active for decades now. Has it accomplished anything positive for the Columbian masses?

That is a good question.

Considering the murderous nature of the Colombian state, why should the FARC lay down its arms? Recall that it was the murderous nature of the Colombian state that started this whole mess by forcing the Left to take up arms in the first place, since they were getting massacred while they were unarmed.

The History of the Colombian Civil War

A little background. This conflict actually started in 1928 with the Banana Massacre in the Far North. There was a banana workers strike and the state sent the army in there to break it up. They massacred something like 60-70 workers to break up the strike.

Then in 1948, Gaitan, a very progressive Liberal, was elected President on a platform of land reform and other reforms. He was quickly murdered by the Conservatives. The people rose up in rage and rebellion all over Colombia. This degenerated into general conflict between the Liberals and the Conservatives, basically over the issue of land reform and the fact that the Liberals had many progressives with them.

This led to the decade of violence called La Violencia, in which 200,000 Colombians were slaughtered. La Violencia was caused by an attempt by the Conservatives and the oligarchy to wipe out the Left. La Violencia continued into the 1960’s.

Some Communists were so sick and tired of all the fighting that they lay down their arms and formed a commune on some land called La Marquetalia. They all moved there and set up farms and whatnot. The Colombian oligarchy started agitating about “Communism in Colombia.” The CIA and the US military went down there to advise the Colombians.

As it turned out, the Colombian military waged a huge armed attack on La Marquetalia, including the use of chemical weapons, in an attempt to exterminate them. The people of Marquetalia tried to fight back, but they had few weapons. They were effectively slaughtered, but a few survived. The survivors of La Marquetalia went on the become the FARC! So that is how the FARC got its start in 1964.

What Good is the FARC?

Actually the FARC does defend the people a lot. When the death squads and army come out to murder and abduct the people, rampaging through the communities, the FARC often wages an offensive to clear them out. The FARC plays a role in defending the people from the murderous state. If the FARC gave up their guns, the people would be defenseless. I’m opposed to that.

Also, look what happened the last time the FARC laid down their guns They were slaughtered like flies. Why should they do it again?

The FARC should only disarm if they can negotiate a solution with the state such as the FMLN did in El Salvador. The FMLN negotiated an integration of the two militaries, getting rid of some notorious security forces, major changes in the corrupt judicial process, and a huge land reform. Via these changes, many of the reasons for the armed struggle went away and the FMLN was able to compete peacefully.

As is, the death squads are tremendously reduced, but still active. They kill about 6 Salvadorans a year. But the FMLN opened up enough space to compete peacefully, and they just won the Presidency. And the land reform produced lasting changes in the countryside. The FARC is only going to give up its guns if it can negotiate some major changes in the system and defang the state enough so that they can compete peacefully in elections.

If you study Latin America, you will see that rightwing death squads rampage through the region, killing progressives. Often the conflict is over land and the death squads are often run by large landowners. Also the police and military operate in the interests of the wealthy, killing progressive people. They kill peasants to steal their land or they kill peasants involved in land disputes and land takeovers.

200 have been killed in Venezuela.

1 person every day is being killed in Honduras.

About 6 a year are killed in El Salvador.

Death squads operate regularly in Guatemala, even after the war.

In Brazil, death squads in the countryside have killed 2-3,000 people in recent years.

As you can see, the Right in Latin America is murderous, whether the people are armed or not. Even if you’re not armed, they come out and kill you anyway. If you arm yourself, at least you get to fight back.

For the record, the Democratic Pole favors a negotiated solution to the war.

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8 thoughts on “What Good Is the FARC?”

  1. Dear Robert
    You made many good points. It is undeniable that the conservatives in Latin America have often used violence to prevent the left from attaining power or to oust it from power after it had won an election. Still, I have seen no evidence that the Columbian masses have benefited from the existence of the FARC. The FARC has every reason to defend itself if the Columbian government intends to massacre them, but it doesn’t follow from that they are enhancing the welfare of the Columbian people.

    For better or worse, the record of the revolutionary left in LA is even more unsuccesful than the record of the parliamentary left. Of all the revolutionary leftist movements in Latin American since 1900, only 3 managed to overthrow the government: the Cuban communists, the Sandinistas and the Mexican revolutionaries in 1910.

    Regards. James

    1. Hi James.

      Stan Goff takes the position that:

      Conservative estimates put the number of death squad murders in the past decade above 25,000, and 1.2 million peasants have been displaced by right-wing violence.
      This displacement by violence is directly supported by oil and mining companies and by big landowners.

      *The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC-EP, are the only force in the region that protects now-landless peasants from further violence.*

      Direct army complicity demonstrates to peasants that they are being attacked by their own government on behalf of foreign investors.

      They see the guerrilla struggle, then, in the same terms that the Vietnamese National Liberation Front did–a fight against colonial rule enforced by the Colombian military and paramilitary as colonial surrogates.

    2. More from Goff:

      What solutions would you propose for ending the violence in Colombia?

      I don’t. I believe the armed struggle there is the only option at this point, and I support it unequivocally. If I were Colombian, I would be a member of the FARC-EP. The people there are not facing some simple moral choice between violence and no violence. *If the guerrillas stood down tomorrow, the consequences for the peasants now partially under their protection would be horrendous. We’ve seen the face of the army and paramilitaries many times. The people in the countryside are not facing a choice between violence and peace, but between self-defense or annihilation.*

  2. Dear Robert
    It seems then that the FARC has had the virtue of saving the lives of peasants in those areas which it controls. Unfortunately, those areas are small and it does not end the fundamental political problem of Columbia: that its propertied classes are so unethical that they are willing to use death squads to further their interests.
    Regards. James

  3. Dear Robert,

    I think it is extremely disrespectful from your part to even suggest that the FARC fight for the Colombian peasants. I am sorry to break it to you, but this is the pretext this narco-terrorist group uses to gain foreign support from uninformed socialist/communist people like you. The FARC started out , more than 60 years ago, like a guerrilla that fought to revange the death of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, a leftist candidate to the presidency; and to give power to people. In case you have not realised, this terrorist group now kills peasants, takes their farms, demand of sums of money from companies, put bombs it rural areas where the population in largely peasant, kidnap people, massacre whole towns in Colombia to kill their opposition, kill whole families so that children have no other option than joining them, etc. All the heads of this terrorist group, when killed, where found wearing a Rolex Daytona, valued in $20,000 US dollars. Does this seem very populist to you?

    Today, the FARC are a group of organised terrorism, that terrorise the Colombian population, only the heads of FARC are benefited from it, most of their children study in Europe. Please be informed, and do some deep, more thorough research, before you write this sort of thing. It is perfectly all right to be a communist, but the FARC are not communist, they are narco-terrorists, responsible for the deaths of tenths of thousands of people each year.

    Felipe S. S.

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