Fri Jul 12, 2024
July 12, 2024

Colombia: Confronting the Political Regime and Corruption through Constituent, Independent Worker Power

By Executive Committee of the Socialist Workers’ Party (PST, Colombia)

The month of May has ended another chapter in the struggle between the government and the opposition in Colombia. Undoubtedly the first of May signaled a respite for the government. Both the size of the mobilization as well as its own discourse seemed to turn in favor of the struggle against the right-wing bourgeois opposition. But before long the situation became complicated.

The corruption scandals in the UNGRD (National Unit of Disaster Risk Management), which involved senior government officials appropriating public funds, bribing and favoring contracts, show that corruption is inherent in capitalism and the usual practices of the bourgeois in politics. This has been a feature that has accompanied the Colombian regime for some time. Ex-president Turbay’s cynical idea that the country should attempt  “to reduce corruption to its just proportions” shows the attitude of the traditional bourgeoisie in power.

The continuation of this type of corruption under Petro’s government shows not only the crooked nature of the bourgeoisie, but also one of the problems with its conciliatory politics: the representatives of the old (and not so old) bourgeois parties are steeped in scandals. It is another of the disastrous consequences of governing with the bourgeoisie and their politics. Petro has washed his hands of the blame of surrendering to clientelism the positions that allowed access to resources in exchange for short-lived governance.

In addition, the central project of his government, its reform package, has continuously shown its limits. The new teacher health policy, which promised to overcome the wrongs of the special regime, was also presented as the “pilot policy” of a health reform that failed to pass Congress. But again, the government ran up against not only the entrenched corruption — the sabotage of those lining their own pockets at the cost of the Ministry of Health — but also improvised implementation that began with several loose ends that were never tied up. This had serious implications for the government; it was a feast for the media, which recently had become very “concerned” with teachers’ health, and worse, it sowed discontent among a sector that was key to his presidential election and the foundation of the largest union in the country.

The corruption, violence, and power of the private sector make clear that Petro’s reformist policy has failed to make a dent in the authoritarian and bloodthirsty Colombian regime. Given this situation, Petro has been invoking “constituent power,” that is, the ability of the people to exercise power according to their will. This has been the talk in recent weeks, with both the call for a Constituent Assembly, as well as rumors of the closure of Congress and new elections.

But at the same time that he has invoked mobilization, the constituent power Petro speaks of seems to be a new form of calling on popular support for his reforms as well as dissuading the adventuristic coups of the right. During his administration, the calls for supportive mobilization, though creating some important protests like the one on May 1, show the recent failure to capture the enthusiasm and determination of the struggle expressed during the 2021 National Strike.

A call to unleash “constituent power” but only within the bounds of support for reforms keeps the government and the masses prey to the same problem: the limits that were imposed by the reactionary political regime and the interests of its own bourgeoisie, both inside and outside of the government. In addition, a constituent tied to the peace agreements with the FARC in 2016 cannot solve the problem of the obstacles imposed by the regime and the bourgeoisie to the historic, democratic, and social demands in the country.

The call for “constituent power” and a National Constituent Assembly coincides with the need for a mass struggle and the organization of workers. The destruction of the authoritarian political regime should not be tied to government help or its reforms, but rather must be clearly and openly proposed; the masses must take into its own hands the struggles for radical agrarian reform, the non-payment of foreign debt, the dismantling of privatization and the expropriation of large capital, among other necessary structural measures.

For the immediate future, it is not enough to dismiss each and every corrupt official. While Petro denounces the oligarchy, he continues to appease and govern with them; he asked the wolves to guard the sheep and was surprised when they ate them. The leaders of the Senate and House, as well as all those implicated, must, of course, resign. More than that, however, we call for the immediate departure of all the ministers of the bourgeoisie, especially those officials appointed due to the quotas of traditional (bourgeois) parties who occupy positions in all government institutions. In addition to removing all of the above political machinery, it is necessary for workers and the people to take control of the state companies and institutions, by electing leaders from the base via workers’ committees. Without the above measures, these cases of corruption will continue to occur.

Translation by Haewon Cho

Check out our other content

Check out other tags:

Most Popular Articles