Colombia and Ireland

George Pennefather poseidon at
Thu Oct 28 08:59:59 MDT 1999

George: In Colombia a civil war exists. It is a civil war that that has nothing to do
the promotion of the class interests of the working class. The FARC and the ELN are the
principal guerrilla armies claiming to represent the interests of the masses. But
there is
little or no difference between these movements and the forces of the state. Both are
merely different expressions of the interests of the bourgeoisie and thereby serve
different functions in perpetuating the existence of that class.

Bernie: Signals have gone out that we must not pay heed to George Pennefather, because
what he writes is 'idiotic', 'drivel', 'sectarian', and ultraleft',  to quote Louis
Proyect.  A more analytical approach emerges from Jose Perez.
Clearly it is a mistake to equate guerrilla forces in Columbia with the Provisional
the latter facing directly the oldest imperialist state from within the oldest colony,
first fighting against a bourgeois state in an ex-colonial and still semi-colonial
dominated by on the one hand 'mafia-capital' and the other transnational capital.
However, that is not to say that it is wrong to question the class interests in either
case, nor their politics.
George: I never equated the guerrilla force in Columbia with the Provisional IRA. I
made the modest point that both forces are essentially petty bourgeois in their
Whether the Provisional IRA are "facing directly the oldest imperialist state" while
FARC/ELN is "fighting against a bourgeois state in an ex-colonial and still
country dominated by" capital in a specific form makes no essential difference when it
comes down to both forces' core politics. The principal necessity is to establish the
essential character of the politics of both of these forces --their class character. To
ruminate upon the surface specificities of either force is to miss the point --their
character. Without establishing the class character of such organisations the working
class can never establish themselves as a strategic challenge to the Columbian or UK
Bernie: The essential politics of both is reformist.  While that would at some time in
past have encouraged critical support from Marxists, there comes a time when reform,
whether within the British or Columbian states, becomes a palpable illusion.  To
it then becomes both a confusion and a barrier to the working class, and in the case of
the Columbian peasant majority, to that too.

George: I share your view that both the Provos and FARC/ELN are reformist
However to claim that reformism are an illusion is not correct. It is possible for
capitalism to reform or adjust itself in this or that way depending on the specific
conjuncture that obtains in any given period. Indeed with regard to Ireland The Good
Friday Agreement is all about reforming or restructuring the UK state in the interests
capitalism. The Provos being petty bourgeois reformists like their Columbian
FARC/ELN, are more than willing to co-operate with imperialism in its strategic
efforts to
restructure the UK state to more effectively serve the class interests of the
The sustained bombing campaign conducted by the Provos was merely away of gaining a
ticket from the imperialist bourgeoisie. Currently the bickering between Sinn/Fein IRA,
Unionism and the UK government is over whether the meal ticket will entitle the Provo
leadership to lunch at the Waldorf or McDonalds.

Bernie: The FARC/ELN may well have stated that its aim was to 'SMASH' the Columbian
and was, like the Provisional IRA, engaged in a protracted, bitter war against the
But in both cases what is wrong with asking either group what it intends to replace the
state with?  Nothing at all, because both workers and peasants will soon be asking
very questions, on the one hand over the Good Friday Agreement and on the other the
rapprochment between FARC/ELN and the Columbian government.

George: To ask such a question mistakenly suggests that FARC/ELN and the Provos
seek to replace the capitalist state with some other social form. Neither entertain any
such intentions and even more significantly neither has the capacity to replace the
with an alternative social form. To ask just such a question, then, is politically
incorrect since it suggests that these puny petty bourgeois organisations have the
historical capacity to change history. It is the modern proletariat, not the petty
bourgeoisie, that have the capacity to make history.

Bernie: 'The leader of the FARC comes from a deeply exploited peasant family, while the
ELN has had a base in oil refinery workers for over a decade.' [Proyect].  So.......?
Some Provos and no doubt some FARC/ELN cadres have claimed to be socialists, because of
their background, and needless to say claim revolutionary credentials.  But both
the masses with themselves, and both manipulate popular sentiment. 'The FARC played an
interesting role in a recent general strike against the monetarist policies of
by seizing a power station.'  [Owen Jones]  Yes, it would be interesting to know what
the power station workers played in this, and how they responded to the FARC

George: The character of the relationship of the power station workers, and indeed the
industrial working class, to the seizure of a power station by the ELN is a
of importance and one that needs to be understood. Indeed the character of the
relationship of the Columbian industrial working class in particular and the working
in general to the guerillism is one that needs to be correctly understood by the
class itself.

Furthermore the character of the relationship of the working class to the mass peace
mobilisation is one that needs to be outlined too. Who organised this massive peace
in Columbia and on what basis? Was it a peace mobilisation based on a attack on the
Columbian state with its paramilitary wing or FARC/ELN? It is extraordinary that these
kinds of questions are not being posed and discussed on a mailing list that contains
subscribers who lay claim to a greater knowledge than the rest of us on such matters.
there a political rather than an intellectual reason for this?

Bernie: It is becoming clearer to me that a lot of flak on this list is reserved in
defence of nationalism.  There are some personal interests at stake, I think.  What I
haven't yet seen is anything that begins to address the implications of huge changes in
the self-movement of capital - 'globalization' - for the international working class.
There is a clear preference to see the class as divided among nation states, when
increasingly there are signs of its own development of internationalism, and vastly
for its necessity.

George: I do agree Bernie that much on this  list that passes for communism is a
form of rabid nationalism. But then much of what passes itself off as marxist has
exhibited this political character --petty bourgeois politics. However there is no
road to communism. Consequently among the tasks of revolutionary communists is the
exposure of the reactionary pervasive nature of petty bourgeois nationalism.

Finally I do agree with you Bernie that your thoughtful postings merit a more serious
response than has been forthcoming from some quarters on this list. But you and I know
that if political weakness makes it impossible to mount a serious challenge then there
always the option of subjecting thoughtful observations to mockery. Such mockery is
the last refuges of the politically bankrupt who just do not want engage in discursive
activity as a communicative form by which  to enhance political development:

Everybody's talkin and no one says a word
Everybody's makin love an no one really cares
Always somethin cookin an nothin in the pot
Nobody told me there'd be days like these
Strange days indeed.

Warm regards
George Pennefather

Be free to check out our Communist Think-Tank web site at

More information about the Marxism mailing list