Tue May 30, 2023
May 30, 2023

Colombia| The Strike, An Opportunity To Think About A New Society

Over the past three weeks, Colombia has experienced a major shake up. Marches, barricades, defensive lines, and popular assemblies in the midst of a brutal wave of repression from the Uribist regime are a sign of resistance, and are bringing to the forefront the need to discuss our perspectives on building a new society.
by the Executive Committee of the Socialist Workers Party – Colombia (PST-Colombia), translated by Carlos Jara
The reasons for why the demonstrations did not stop following the downfall of the Tributary Reform and the Ministry of the Treasury or following the repression and the scrapping of the healthcare reform are obvious: the problem was not just that reforms were going to make a bad situation worse, but rather that the entire system is to blame. A system of oppression and exploitation, of death and hunger, and which lacks any opportunities for the youth.
One slogan echoes across all of the streets of the country today: Down with Duque. Consciousness grows and multiplies: “Anti-Uribista Colombia,” “Uribismo: Never again”. Why? We Colombians are intuitively self-identifying this way, identifying Duque as the culprit behind the repression, the economic disaster, and the healthcare disaster; and identifying the (authoritarian, dictatorial, narcotrafficking, and corrupt) Uribista regime as the enemy. But this government and regime are bolstered by the global capitalist system, which in the end is what rules over humanity’s destiny, marching towards social and environmental collapse.

The system is the problem

The economic crisis of capitalism that we are living through––a nearly constant, chronic state of crisis at the present moment––creates more and more misery on Earth. Millions of people experience extreme famine, despite the existence of sufficient resources needed to provide food for all.
Today, thanks to capitalist ecological upheaval, we are living through a pandemic that has already killed around 4 million people.
This isn’t just a problem of our “model”, as some have suggested, but rather a systemic problem. The system’s name is capitalism, and it is in crisis on a global level. We do not believe that this system can be reformed or improved into a “humane capitalism”. We believe that this system should be abolished, and that we need to build a totally different society.
George Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and alongside them in Colombia, Santos and Duque, are all links in the same chain, which, despite their different approaches and their individual political perspectives, have all acted primarily as staunch defenders of capitalism, and in this they have a common objective: to maintain and increase imperialist transnational exploitation across the globe, despite the terrible results that this will produce for humanity and the environment writ large.
Capitalism, through the pandemic and the global recession, is amplifying the world’s cruelty, and is sharpening class contradictions, increasing poverty and hunger as well as sexism, racism, xenophobia and other forms of oppression to unprecedented levels. It is one of the worst pandemics and social crises of history, which has been developing over the course of a year and a half, and while vaccines have been developed, they unequally distributed thanks to monopolies over their production. At the global level, the capitalists have made a decision: the economic crisis launched by the pandemic will be paid by the working class and poor of the world.
Today, the measures imposed by the OECD and IMF are commonplace across many other countries, sharing the common fundamentals of restrictions on labor rights and fines against states, in order to contain the capitalist crisis. This has led to frequent demonstrations condemning these measures across the streets of the world, from the US to China, Chile, Haiti and Myanmar.

Proposals for a new society

Today, on the heels of several weeks of struggle by the Colombian people, the task of the day is a program which provides a solution to the profound social and economic crisis that afflicts the working class, and which can be expanded to other countries thanks to the common denominator of their crises: capitalist exploitation.
Today we would like to present a few proposals for discussion by the youth who have no opportunities, the workers who have been outsourced, women, LGBTI people, Black people, indigenous people, immigrants, poor peasants and the entirety of the population of people who struggle to meet their basic needs. To block reforms and bring down government ministries is a great victory for the exploited masses, as is bringing down governments, but we need to also think ahead to propose solutions to the social and economic crises that we are experiencing.

Down with Duque and all of the corrupt murderers

It is urgent for us to bring down this criminal government and the Uribista regime with it. We need to say “No” to impunity, to demand punishments for those responsable for a paramilitary genocide and state repression, as well as reparations to the victims. This is why we propose the establishment of a workers’ and peoples’ tribunal, with participation by the victims of state repression, in order to bring the culprits to justice.
We demand broad civil liberties, the immediate disbanding of the ESMAD police force and paramilitaries, and freedom for all political prisoners.
Down with Minister Molano and the generals responsible for the massacres!
All support to the indigenous and Black guards and protest self-defense teams all over Colombia!

Not one cent to external debts

External debt is a tool of colonial domination, which bleeds dry the resources of our countries and denies us control over our labor and social policy.
The rich need to pay for the crisis! No payments of external debt! To finance healthcare, education, and other necessities we need to stop paying back this hated and illegitimate debt.

Break with the economic pacts

Customs agreements are unfair deals imposed by rich countries on poor ones, which increase the profits of major multinational corporations at the expense of high unemployment and poverty for the people. We demand the abolition of these deals and for multinational corporationss to leave the country.
Multinational corporations, along with our own national capitalists, need to be expropriated. The means of production need to be nationalized and placed under workers’ control.
Natural resources need to be nationalized under workers’ control, and the economy should be planned to protect the environment.

Military bases out of Colombia

The North American military bases are a symbol of military domination and the persistent threat of intervention in South America.
Now more than ever, our social movements need to demand for the withdrawal of military troops and bases from our territory.

Mass vaccination campaigns, break the patents, and produce vaccines on a national scale

The richest countries have hoarded the world’s vaccine supply, leaving the rest of the world without sufficient doses. Right now in Colombia, only 5% of the population has received both necessary vaccine doses, and only 10% have received their first dose. The most urgent demand of the moment is vaccines for all, to reduce the spread of the pandemic and the death of countless more people.

Nationalization of transit and public services, guaranteed housing with dignity provided by the state

It is urgent to nationalize once more the public services sector so that they will no longer exist as a business, but rather will serve to meet the needs of the population. We need an end to the situation where we have people without homes, and homes without people.
We need to take back the mines, hydroelectric plants, and other natural resources plundered by imperialism.
Among other basic services, we need to include universal internet access, which has become an indispensable part of daily life, education, and work.

Nationalization of the healthcare and education systems

Free education and healthcare for all, subsidies and bailouts for public hospitals and schools. Direct, legal employment for all workers in the healthcare and education sectors. Vaccines and health safety measures to avoid risking people’s lives.

Full employment and a living wage, no taxes on the poor, and a defense of the pensions

We need to distribute work hours across the whole working population in order to address unemployment and instability. Salaries in general need to be raised, and the minimum wage needs to correspond with the cost of living.
Remove all regressive taxes, and implement progressive taxation plans on the bourgeoisie.
Cancellation of the AFP pension system and the bolstering of universal pension plans. Get rid of all of the anti-worker legislation which has made work precarious, such as Decree 1174, in order to end outsourcing and job insecurity.

Against sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and all forms of discrimination

Capitalists take advantage of whichever traits that they can to divide us and have us fight each other, so that they can pay less to women, immigrants, etc. and in doing so bring down wages for our class as a whole. Sexist, racist and homophobic violence is on the rise. We need to take urgent measures.
We need a well-budgeted emergency plan to deal with sexist violence. Laws preventing access to abortion and all other norms which increase gender discrimination need to be abolished. Employment plans need to guarantee protection against discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or nationality.

A future for the youth

A significant portion of the people who have risen up to fight these past weeks have been young, those who have nothing to lose, who have neither education nor job opportunities. Thus, it is key for any education and employment plan to include measures to guarantee a future for the youth, without relegating them to lower salaries the way that the government does. On the contrary, they need guaranteed access to education and work with dignity. We have a right to cultural programming and sports, and an end to the bloodthirsty oppression that has been unleashed against them.
Equal pay for minors and adults! Legal employment for all struggling youth! No more repression and stigmatization!

Agrarian reform

Land for peasants, granted through a radical democratic reform and the expropriation of landowners and multinational corporations. Limits on land ownership, and the redistribution of land for poor peasants, as well as the repatriation of lands to indigenous and Black communities. Production needs to be organized, partially through worker cooperatives and partially through state agricultural companies.

For a popular workers’ government

We workers, who produce all of society’s wealth and who make the world run, have the power and knowledge to govern ourselves. Popular assemblies have demonstrated that our communities also know how to rule and organize themselves.

How can we win this program?

We can win this program through organized struggle, much like we have been doing over the past few weeks with the general strike, and we need to push forward to a production strike.
In order to succeed, we need to apply a few principles in struggle and in our general organization:

  • Class independence and workers’ democracy: it is key for workers to organize themselves independently and in a democratic fashion, free from the influence of capitalists, businessmen and politicians. Similarly, we believe that we need to democratize the organizations of the workers’ movement. Decisions need to be made collectively, as a majority, not by far away leaders that do not represent us and our struggle.
  • Proletarian internationalism: unity and solidarity in struggle together with the workers and peoples of the world as we face down our common enemy.
  • The right to organize our self-defense in struggle: we claim the right to defend ourselves from state repression. For this reason we praise and defend the Indigenous and Black Guards, as well as the front line defenses of protests, and we call for such organizations to be formed wherever they are lacking.

These proposals could all be discussed as part of a constitutional assembly, as long as such an assembly is broad, democratic, and sovereign. A constitutional assembly, despite being a mechanism within bourgeois democracy, can open the path for a mobilization and political engagement of the whole working population. A broad, democratic constitutional assembly is a process that can politicize workers and educate them about the needs, realities, and solutions to our current situation. It helps to allow workers to identify their enemies, the capitalists and their representatives in government, because a constitutional convention with broad participation will force the representatives of the bourgeoisie to publicly vote against the interests of the working majority. Such a process naturally leads people to the conclusion that the only way to resolve the problems of our society is through a workers’ government that fights for socialism, a government won by the struggle in motion and the socialist revolution.

Join the PST

To advance these tasks and to defend this program, it is paramount for workers and the people to organize themselves independently from the capitalists and their pet politicians who always tell us that our problems will be resolved at the polls. To accomplish this, our organization, the PST, which itself is just one section of the International Workers’ League, invites you to join us to build a new, socialist society, where everyone contributes according to their ability and receives according to their needs, a world free from exploitation and oppression.
Twitter @PstColombia
The original version of this article can be found in Spanish here.

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