What the proletariat in Colombia is fighting for

In recent weeks, the working class in Colombia has firmly confronted the new attacks of the bourgeoisie, concretized this last time in a tax reform of the government that seeks to increase the extraction of surplus value by new means.

Submitted by Guerre de Classe on June 20, 2021

The proletariat in Colombia has been suffering continuous aggressions by the bourgeoisie, which are expressed in a progressive deterioration of living conditions, in strong social inequalities and the forceful use of violence (military and paramilitary) against the workers’ and peasants’ mobilization. The peace agreements with the guerrillas have simply represented a mechanism for the integration of their counterrevolutionary political apparatuses into the democratic institutions of capital, with the settling of scores against the leaders of the popular protests spreading throughout the country, while the landowning bourgeoisie relaunches its offensive against the rural proletariat. The circumstances generated by the new pandemic of capital, the covid-19, have further aggravated the situation, in terms of unemployment, misery and higher taxes. In fact, this tax reform has been the straw that broke the camel’s back for a social explosion of enormous proportions to take place.

But we would be mistaken if we tried to understand this social outburst in exclusively national terms. Quite the contrary. The response of the working class in Colombia to the plans of hunger and misery of its bourgeoisie is part of the recomposition of the world (and Latin American) proletariat, in its struggle to survive capitalism that has exhausted its possibilities of organic development. The radical forms of struggle in the streets of the main Colombian cities are a response from below to the world capital that is incapable of articulating value as a social relation, in its headlong rush under increasingly fictitious expressions, extracting surplus value through all kinds of mechanisms at its disposal and through the increasing use of force and violence.

Globally, we are observing how the proletariat has been confronting capital since the beginning of the 2008 crisis. At first, as it happened with the Arab revolutions of 2011 or the 15-M in Spain, with many democratic and citizens’ illusions, of regeneration of the system. In these social mobilizations, the middle class and its postmodern culture wars played a hegemonic role. But, over time, the working class has radicalized its struggles, confronting more directly the material conditions imposed by capital’s plans of exploitation. In 2019, the social outbursts in Chile, which were triggered by the rise in urban transport prices, and in Ecuador, which were also triggered by an aggressive fiscal adjustment, represented a change of scenario in the class struggle in the Latin American subcontinent. They opened a phase of greater radicalization in the workers’ struggles, producing a more direct confrontation with capital and its governments. What has been happening in Colombia in recent weeks cannot be understood without alluding to this more global framework of greater social radicalization.

As it happened previously in Chile and Ecuador, the proletariat in Colombia has shown great bravery and radicalism in the streets, even confronting paramilitary groups that have ruthlessly fired live ammunition at the demonstrators. In Cali, the epicenter of the protests, the communes (neighborhoods) on the outskirts of the city have organized collectively not only to confront the violence of the repressive forces. They also had to organize food supplies, protection from infiltrated agents, collective transportation, care for the wounded, etc., as the government has tried to starve them out and cancel basic services. The response of these communes, like Puerto Resistencia, is an example of the capacity of our class to build social relations at the margin of those imposed by capital and its States, where at the same time that the material living conditions are reorganized, a revolution in values and human relations takes place. The world ceases to be inverted, as it happens in capitalism, and social needs become a priority over any other criterion (such as the accumulation of capital without limits) in the decisions that the communes make in the uses of the available resources and in the efforts that are dedicated to achieve them. Everything is changed, no longer upside down. Thus, for example, an activist in the environmental struggles, who until then needed an escort in the face of multiple threats and assassinations committed by the paramilitaries, now walks free, without fear, among her neighbors. The proletarian mobilization has given her back her security; it has stopped the violence of capital in those spaces where our class has imposed its logic of life (against the logic of death of capital).

These are glimpses of a new society, these are insights of communism, and these are the infancy, the beginning, of the revolutionary constitution of a class that refuses to succumb alongside a dying capitalism. Communism will not emerge from the head of any genius, nor from the exogenous directives of any enlightened vanguard. It is a historical movement that emanates from the entrails of society, that arises in the heat of the struggles of the proletariat to guarantee its conditions of existence, when capital, in its desperate attempt to continue increasing its profits, leaves our class no other option but to organize itself socially in an alternative way to guarantee its living conditions. Certainly, it is still insufficient what we are seeing in the communes of Cali or Medellin, or in the neighborhoods of Santiago in Chile; these new social relations can only impose themselves on the logic of capital at the global level. But, undoubtedly, they show the way forward, these are experiences where our class is learning to fight capitalism on a real, material level, without being satisfied with the cultural and democratic illusions whispered in its ear by the postmodern left.

But, as we said, we are at the beginning of an enormously complex process, fraught with dangers. The Colombian left itself, both at the political and trade union levels, is trying to divert the struggles to the electoral terrain and to that of negotiation with the government, entangling thus the proletariat into the technocratic labyrinth of the cosmetic reforms of a capital that can only offer catastrophe and greater exploitation. The false hopes of social democracy, expressed in Colombia in the presidential candidacy of Gustavo Petro or in the mayor of Bogotá Claudia López, represent the greatest danger for our class in its struggle for a better life. In its attempt to manage the crisis of capital, in its gross attempt to shape a friendly or inclusive capitalism, social democracy irremediably ends up becoming one more puppet of the logic of value. If capital is endangered by proletarian mobilization, there is no doubt that these figures of Colombian social democracy will not feel any remorse in acting with violence and the same determination with which President Iván Duque is acting today. In Colombia, as in the rest of the world, the revolutionary proletariat will search for its own path, as Karl Marx said in the Communist Manifesto of 1848. The proletariat is the only social class that has at its disposal the material conditions to build a society outside the logic of value. It is necessary to fight with all our energies against social democracy, against the democratic illusions that promise a benevolent management of capital, against the opportunist currents that pretend to put our class in the dilemma of choosing (with special effort in the electoral terrain) between the most progressive and the most reactionary forms of capital. It is a false choice. We can expect nothing from capital in its various forms but misery and desolation. The workers of the communes in Colombia show us an alternative and real way: that of proletarian self-determination through class struggle.

Source in Spanish: http://barbaria.net/2021/05/30/por-que-lucha-el-proletariado-en-colombia/
English translation: Los Amigos de la Guerra de Clases