Colombia and Ireland

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Tue Oct 26 18:55:15 MDT 1999

Owen Jones writes:

> Clearly, a guerrilla army is not a Marxist or Leninist way to emancipate
>the masses. Indeed, such a tactic in itself is a petty-bourgeois deviation.

While I agree with your denunciation of George's sterile sectarianism, I
don't think there's a need for "exceptionalism" given the current world
situation to "justify" a guerrilla army. I think the idea that there is a
"Marxist or Leninist" way to emancipate the masses is wrong. No less a
Marxist than Engels himself was a participant in "guerrilla warfare" (during
the revolutions of 1848), and Marx didn't find it necessary to denounce him
as a petite-bourgeois deviant. There is literally nothing in Marx (or
Engels, or Lenin) for or against guerrilla warfare in general, for the
simple reason that it's never been in the true spirit of Marxism to try to
dictate the forms the struggle "should" take.

>These armies serve the interests of the peasantry, not the proletariat. The
>methods of individual terror should not be supported. Simply achieving land
>reform for the peasants is not enough - that is a demand of the bourgeois
>revolution, last time I checked, and the liberal Russian "Socialist"
>Revolutionaries demanded the same.

It is true that, historically, the demand for land reform came up during the
bourgeois-democratic revolutions. But this does not mean that it is a demand
that favors bourgeois rule, or is incompatible with a socialist revolution.
"Simply" achieving land reform for the peasants, of course, "is not enough."
Nor is "simply" achieving equality for Blacks, or "simply" achieving the
sliding scale of wages and hours, or any other number of measures that
revolutionaries support. You mention the Russian SR's as having been
liberal, but it is precisely the Bolshevi'k Party's adoption, lock, stock
and barrel, of the left SR's peasant program as their own that made possible
the worker-peasant alliance that conquered power in October 1917. The task
of the working class in relation to the peasantry is to ally with the
exploited peasants against the rural bourgeoisie and large landowners.
History has shown that in forging this alliance, the key is precisely the
proletariat's support to agrarian "reform."

>Neither can there ever be a compromise
>between the masses and the bourgeoisie - a Marxist organisation
>the masses should not even bring up the possibility of allowing continued
>bourgeois rule and the maintaining of the capitalist system, (though I
>believe the "peace" talks are merely a tactic used by the FARC to gradually
>seize power). Not only that, but it is the historical task of the
>proletariat - not the peasantry - to overthrow the bourgeoisie and build

As a general statement, your assertion that there never can be a compromise
between the masses and the bourgeoisie is false. The masses and the
bourgeoisie make compromises daily. That's what a union contract is, for
example. Moreover, a Marxist organization, far from never even bringing up
the possibility of alloweing continued bourgeois rule, MUST in its tactics
and strategy recognize the FACT of bourgeois rule. It is not something we
are FOR, but it is something we are unlikely to change unless we temper our
revolutionary fervor with a realistic assessment of the level of development
of the proletarian struggle.

As to whether the historical tasks of socialism correspond to the
proletariat and the peasantry, the question is more complicated than it
might seem at first blush. The peasantry is not just one thing, but a very
stratified class that includes everything from people who are really rural
proletarians and semi-proletarians to the privileged layers that exploit
them. History shows that small producers like peasants who are being
proletarianized by the expansion of capitalist relations can be just as
conscious fighters for socialism as the "heredetary" proletariat. Indeed,
Enegls notes in some notes on the history of the Communist League that it
was precisely German artisans --tailors and so on-- that were the dominant
group in the League, even though they were not proletarians. He explains
this by noting that at the time, these layers were being proletarianized and
thus were especially aware of the process and the conditions for the
liberation of the proletariat.

In Cuba, it was precisely the rural proletariat and semi-proletarian layers
that played a decisive role in the struggle for power, and the urban working
class didn't really come into its own, so to speak, until after the seizure
of power.

> But we have no choice in the matter. To continue its existence, and to
>any chance of smashing the bourgeois state, it is unquestionable that the
>FARC is going to have to gain the support of the proletariat in the cities,
>from whom they have next to none at present. This class could then play the
>decisive role in the revolution. The FARC played an interesting role in a
>recent general strike against the monetarist policies of Pastrana, by
>seizing a power station. We need a little more of that.
> Critical support of FARC and such armies as the ELN should be maintained.
>They're far from perfect, but better than nothing. They could inspire a
>revival of revolutionary consciousness in Latin America.

I do not think the correct stance for revolutionaries in the imperialist
countries to take is one of "critical support" to one or another leadership
or current in the Colombian struggle. Our solidarity should be for the
struggle of the Colombian people against imperialist domination and
capitalist rule, against exploitation and oppression. We should recognize
that it is very difficult to judge from abroad the mettle of different
currents in the revolutionary movement.

In particular, experience shows that the stated, paper program of this or
that organization is rarely a good basis for deciding who "really is" or "is
not" a revolutionary. You'll notice, for example, that in the Communist
Manifesto Marx and Engels did not place much stress on the "program" of the
communists, in the sense of a series of measures or demands, sating these
would vary as a function of the specific circumstances.

>Note the fact
>Castro wants the armies to disarm after a compromise which would keep the
>capitalist system in place, and recently said that the era of guerrilla
>warfare was over. I wouldn't be so annoyed at such a statement if he hadn't
>issued another one recently after a meeting with some Iranian official
>proposing the Islamic system as a possible alternative to the present
>in the West.

I must have missed these statements by Fidel, whose opinions carry the
greatest weight with me, and would appreciate a pointer to where these
statements can be found. Last time I heard, he was 1000% solid on the
socialism or death line, so I find it hard to credit this last-minute
conversion to Islam and capitalism. Perhaps some bourgeois reporters of
others are reading more than is justified to what are essentially exchanges
of diplomatic pleasantries or defensive formulations.

Best regards,



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