[Marxism] Fidel Castro and the FARC

David Thorstad binesi at gvtel.com
Wed Jul 9 06:05:44 MDT 2008


An uncritical pro-FARC critique, for what it's worth.
David

*Fidel Castro and the FARC*

*Eight Mistaken Thesis of Fidel Castro*

*By James Petras*

*08/07/08 "**ICH* <http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/>*" -- - I* 
have been a supporter of the Cuban Revolution for exactly fifty years 
and recognize Fidel Castro as one of the great revolutionary leaders of 
our time.  But I have never been an uncritical apologist: On several 
crucial occasions I have expressed my disagreements in print, in public 
and in discussions with Cuban leaders, writers and militants.  Fidel 
Castro’s articles and commentaries on the recent events in Colombia, 
namely his discussion of the Colombian regime’s freeing of several FARC 
prisoners (including three CIA operatives and Ingrid Betancourt) and his 
critical comments on the politics, structure, practices, tactics and 
strategy of the FARC and its world-renowned leader, Manuel Marulanda, 
merit serious consideration.

            Castro’s remarks demand analysis and refutation, not only 
because his opinions are widely read and influence millions of militants 
and admirers in the world, especially in Cuba and Latin America, but 
because he purports to provide a ‘moral’ basis for opposition to 
imperialism today.  Equally important Castro’s unfortunate diatribe and 
critique against the FARC, Marulanda and the entire peasant-based 
guerrilla movement, has been welcomed, published and broadcast by the 
entire pro-imperialist mass media on five continents.  Fidel Castro, 
with few caveats, has uncritically joined the chorus condemning the FARC 
and, as I will demonstrate, without reason or logic.

 Eight Erroneous Theses of Fidel Castro

1.      Castro claims that the ‘liberation’ of the FARC political 
prisoners “/opens a chapter for peace in Colombia, a process which Cuba 
has been supporting for 20 years as the most appropriate for the unity 
and liberation of the peoples of our America, utilizing new approaches 
in the complex and special present day circumstances after the collapse 
of the USSR…”/ (*Reflections of Fidel Castro*, July 4, 2008).

What is astonishing about this thesis (and the entire essay) is Castro’s 
total omission of any discussion of the mass terror unleashed by 
Colombia’s President Uribe against trade unionists, political critics, 
peasant communities and documented by every human rights group in and 
out of Colombia in both of his recent essays.  In fact, Castro 
exculpates the current Uribe regime, the most murderous regime, and puts 
the entire blame on ‘US Imperialism’.  Since the “collapse of the Soviet 
Union”, and under the US-led military offensive, a multitude of armed 
revolutionary movements have emerged in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, 
Afghanistan, Nepal, and other pre-existing armed groups in Colombia and 
the Philippines,  have continued to engage in struggle.  In Latin 
America, the “new approaches” to revolution were anything but peaceful – 
massive popular uprisings overthrowing corrupt electoral politicians in 
Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela…costing many hundreds of lives.

The “liberation” of Betancourt has strengthened the iron fist of the 
Uribe regime, increased the militarization of the countryside, and 
covered up the on-going death squad murders of trade unionists and 
peasants.  Contrary to Fidel Castro, the US /and Colombia’s death squad 
president/ have used their ‘success’ to buttress their arguments in 
favor of joint US-Colombian military action.  Fidel’s celebration of the 
Colombian regime’s action as an “opening for peace” serves to deflect 
attention from the Colombian Supreme Court decision claiming that the 
re-election of Uribe was illegal because of the tyrant’s bribing 
Congress people to amend the constitutional provision allowing the 
president a second term.

2.      Fidel Castro denigrates the recently deceased leader of the 
FARC, Manuel Marulanda, as a /“peasant, communist militant, principle 
leader of the guerrilla”/ (Reflections).  In his text of July 5, 2008 
(Reflections II), Castro condescendingly refers to /“Marulanda of 
notable natural intelligence and leadership qualities, on the other hand 
never had opportunities to study when he was an adolescent.  It is said 
he only finished the fifth grade.  He conceived (of the revolution) as a 
long and prolonged struggle, a point of view which I never shared.”/  
Castro was the son of a plantation owner and educated in private Jesuit 
colleges and trained as a lawyer.  He implies that education credentials 
and higher status prepares the revolutionary leadership to lead the 
peasants lacking formal education, but with /‘natural leadership 
qualities’/ apparently sufficient to allow them to follow the 
intellectuals and professionals better suited to lead the revolution.

The test of history however refutes Castro’s claims.  Marulanda built, 
over a period of 40 years, a bigger guerrilla army with a wider mass 
base than any Castro-inspired guerrilla force from the 1960’s to 2000.

Castro promoted a theory of ‘guerrilla focos’ between 1963-1980, in 
which small groups of intellectuals would organize an armed nucleus in 
the countryside, engage in combat and attract mass peasant support.  
Every Castro-ite guerrilla foco was quickly defeated – wiped out – in 
Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay (urban focos), Bolivia and Argentina.  
In contrast, Marulanda’s prolonged guerrilla war strategy relied on mass 
grass roots organizing based on close peasant ties with guerrillas, 
based on community, family and class solidarity, building slowly and 
methodically a national political-military people’s army.  In fact, a 
serious re-examination of the Cuban revolution  reveals that Castro’s 
guerrillas were recruited from the mass of urban mass organizations, 
methodically organized prior to and during the formation of the 
guerrilla foco in 1956-1958. 

Although reliable figures on the FARC are available, Castro 
underestimated by half the number of FARC guerrillas, relying on the 
propaganda of Uribe’s publicists.

3.      Castro condemns the ‘cruelty’ of the FACR tactics /“of capturing 
and holding prisoners in the jungle.”/  With this logic, Castro should 
condemn every revolutionary movement in the 20^th century beginning with 
the Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese revolutions.  Revolutions are cruel 
but Fidel forgets that counter-revolutions are even crueler.  Uribe 
established local spy networks involving local officials, as was done in 
Vietnam during that war.  And the Vietnamese revolutionaries eliminated 
the collaborators because they were responsible for the execution of 
tens of thousands of village militants.  Castro fails to comment on the 
fact that Ms. Betancourt, upon her celebrated ‘liberation’ embraced and 
thanked General Mario Montoya.  According to a declassified US embassy 
document, Montoya organized a clandestine terrorist unit (‘American 
Anti-Communist Alliance’), which murdered thousands of Colombian 
dissidents, almost all of them ferociously tortured beforehand.  The 
‘cruelty’ of FACR captivity did not show up in Betancourt’s medical 
exam:  She was in good health!

4.      Fidel claims /“Cuba is for peace in Colombia but not US military 
intervention”./  It is the Colombian oligarchy and Uribe regime, which 
has invited and collaborated with the US military intervention in 
Colombia.  Castro implies that US military intervention is imposed from 
the outside, rather than seeing it as part of the class struggle within 
Colombia, in which Colombia’s rulers, landowners and narco-traffickers 
play a major role in financing and training the death squads.  In the 
first 6 months of 2008, 24 trade union leaders have been murdered by the 
Uribe regime, over 2,562 killed over the past twenty years since what 
Castro describes as the /“new roads of complex and special 
circumstances.”/  Fidel totally ignores the continuities of death squad 
murders of unarmed social movement activists, the lack of solidarity 
from Cuba toward all the Colombian movements since Havana developed 
diplomatic and commercial ties with the Uribe regime. 

     Is balancing between Cuba’s state interest in diplomatic and 
economic ties with Colombia and claiming             
revolutionary credentials part of the “ complexities” of  Cuban foreign 
policy? 

5.      Castro calls for the immediate release of all FARC-held 
prisoners, without the minimum consideration of the 500 guerrillas 
tortured and dehumanized in  Uribe’s and Bush’s horrendous high security 
‘special prisons’.  Castro boasts that Cuba released its prisoners 
captured during the anti-Batista struggle and calls for the FARC to 
follow Cuba’s example, rather than the Vietnamese and Chinese 
revolutionary approach.  Castro’s attempt to impose and universalize his 
tactics, based on Cuban experience, on Colombia lacks the minimum effort 
to understand, let alone analyze, the specificities of Colombia, its 
military, the political context of the class struggle and the social and 
political context of humanitarian negotiations in Colombia.

6.      Castro claims the FARC should end the guerrilla struggle but not 
give up their arms because in the past guerrillas who disarmed were 
slaughtered by the regime.  Instead, he suggests they should accept 
France’s offer to abandon their country or accept Chavez’ (Uribe’s 
‘brother’ and ‘friend’) proposal to negotiate and secure a commission 
made up Latin American notables to oversee their integration into 
Colombian politics.

What are ‘armed’ guerillas going to do when thousands of Uribe’s 
soldiers and death squads ravage the countryside?  Flee to the mountains 
and shoot wild pigs?  Going to France means abandoning millions of 
starving vulnerable peasant supporters and the class struggle.

7.      Fidel Castro totally omits from his discussion the manner in 
which every political leader involved in the ‘humanitarian mission’ used 
the celebration of Betancourt’s ‘liberation’ to cover up and distract 
from their serious political difficulties.  First and foremost, Uribe’s 
re-election was ruled illegal by the Colombian Supreme Court because he 
was accused and convicted of bribing members of Congress to vote for the 
constitutional amendment allowing his running for a second term.  
Uribe’s presidency is de facto illegal.  Betancourt’s release and 
delirious embrace of Uribe undermines the judicial verdict and 
eliminates the court injunction for a new Congressional vote or national 
election.  Sarkozy’s popularity in France was in a vertical free fall, 
his highly publicized intervention in the negotiations with the FARC 
were a total failure, his militarist policies in the Middle East and 
virulent anti-immigrant policies alienated substantial sectors of the 
French public (as did rising prices and economic stagnation). 

The release of Betancourt and her effusive praise and embrace of Sarkozy 
revived his tarnished image and gave him a temporary respite from the 
burgeoning political and economic discontent with his domestic and 
foreign policies.

Chavez used the release of Betancourt to embrace his ‘enemy’, Uribe, and 
to put further distance from the FARC, in particular, and the popular 
movements in Colombia, as well as to build bridges with a post-Bush US 
President.  Chavez also returned to the good graces of the entire 
pro-imperialist mass media and favorable comments from the right-wing US 
Presidential candidate, John McCain, who “hoped the FARC would follow 
Chavez demands to disarm.” 

Cuba, or at least Fidel Castro, used the ‘liberation’ of Betancourt to 
display his long-term hostility to the FARC (dating at least from 1990) 
for embarrassing his policy of reconciliation with the Colombian regime.

8.  Striking a humanitarian and quasi-electoral posture in celebrating 
Betancourt’s 

release, Castro lambasted the FARC for its ‘cruelty’ and armed 
resistance to the terrorist Uribe regime.  Castro attacked the 
FARC’s”authoritarian structure and dogmatic leadership”, ignoring FARC’s 
endorsement of electoral politics between 1984-90 (when over 5,000 
disarmed activists and political candidates were slaughtered), and the 
free and open debate over policy alternative in the demilitarized zone 
(1999-2002) with all sectors of Colombian society.  In contrast, Castro 
never permitted free and open debate and elections, even among communist 
candidates in any legislative process – at least until he was replaced 
by Raul Castro. 

The abovementioned political leaders were serving their own personal 
political interests by bashing the FARC and celebrating Betancourt at 
the expense of the people of Colombia.

Conclusion

            Has Castro clearly thought through the disastrous 
consequences for millions of impoverished Colombians  or is he thinking 
only of Cuba’s possible improvement of relations with Colombia once the 
FARC is liquidated?  The effect of Castro’s anti-FARC articles has been 
to provide ammunition for the imperial mass media to discredit the FARC 
and armed resistance to tyranny and to bolster the image of death squad 
President Uribe.  When the world’s premier revolutionary leader denies 
the revolutionary history and practice of an ongoing popular movement 
and its brilliant leader who built that movement, he is denying the 
movements of the future a rich heritage of successful resistance and 
construction.  History will not absolve him.

/James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, 
New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser 
to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of 
Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). His latest book is /"/The Power of 
Israel in the United States/_"_ 
<http://www.amazon.com/gp/search?ie=UTF8&keywords=The%20Power%20of%20Israel%20in%20the%20United%20States%20&tag=informati06f8-20&index=blended&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325>/ 
(Clarity Press, 2006). He can be reached at: jpetras at binghamton.edu 
<mailto:jpetras at binghamton.edu>./

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