[Marxism] anarchism in Colombia

Anthony Boynton anthony.boynton at gmail.com
Thu Jul 24 07:34:23 MDT 2008

Below is an inteesting article in English about anarchism in Colombia.
Although the article was written in March, it is still relevant. The old
left in Colombia, especially the guerrila has lost all attraction for
radical youth, and anarchism is, at least partly, filling the void. If you
read the full article (see link below) pay special attention to the part
about graffitti. The new left, including the anrachists and the red
anarchists seems to be growing in working class neighborhoods once dominated
by the traditional left, as well as among upper class youth. Anthony

Introduction to Anarchism

and Resistance in Bogotá

On March 11, 2007, downtown Bogotá was filled with soldiers, snipers,
undercover cops, and riot police on account of George Bush's visit to
Colombia. Nevertheless, hundreds gathered at the police barricades to burn
flags and express their opposition to neoliberal capitalism. When the police
turned water cannons, tear gas, and batons upon the crowd, the protesters
tore lampposts and park benches out of the sidewalk to defend themselves and
smashed the windows of banks and shops.

Thanks to the internet, many anarchists in the United States have seen
photos of clashes like this one, but few understand the context in which
they take place. We paid a visit to Bogotá recently to get more background
on the political and social climate there and the role of anarchists within
it. With the helpful guidance of our Colombian friends and the understanding
that we can only offer limited insight into the complexities of their
situation, we'd like to share some of what we learned.

Colombia is located at the junction of North and South America, a strategic
position that has brought dire misfortune upon Colombians since the first
colonial invasions. A century ago, the US forced the secession of Panama
from Colombia to obtain control of trade passing from Atlantic to Pacific,
and today the rich ecosystems south of Panama are being devastated to open
the way for pan-American highway traffic. Unlike practically every other
major South American nation, Colombia was not explicitly ruled by a
dictatorship in the latter part of the 20th century—instead, the pretense of
democracy was maintained, with representatives of the Liberal and
Conservative parties alternating rule under the Frente Nacional between 1958
and 1974. This means that today, unlike Brazil, Argentina, and Chile,
Colombia has yet to enter the post-dictatorship era; it is a "democracy,"
but one in which every serious opposition candidate has been murdered or
bought off and corporate rule is maintained as often by brute force as by
political machination.

Having not entered the post-dictatorship era, Colombia is still wracked by
the kind of internal armed conflict that other Latin American countries
suffered between the 1960s and 1980s. Politics in Colombia are framed by the
brutal forty-year civil war between the US-supported government—and its
paramilitary supporters, who are interlinked with the drug cartels the US
claims to oppose—and guerrilla insurgents, who are also now involved in
narcotrafficking. The two primary guerrilla factions are the FARC and the
ELN, both communist groups formed in 1964; the FARC is descended from
Liberal and communist guerrilla groups formed by campesinos in the late
1940s, while the ELN was organized by students returning from Fidel Castro's

Every year thousands of Colombians die violently in this struggle, but
Bogotá is the eye of the storm: a space of relative calm in which the
conflict takes more subtle forms. Latin America has megapolises like nothing
in North America—Brazil's Sao Paulo is twice the size of New York, and
Mexico City is the biggest in the world—and Bogotá is as sprawling and
heavily populated as any city in the United States. The north is known for
its wealthier districts, while in other areas some neighborhoods still
retain their "popular"—that is to say, class conscious and
defiant—character[1][1] The expression "Barrios Populares" is also used to
denote the shantytowns around the periphery of the city; it is an
alternative to "Barrios de Invasión," the bourgeois slur for the same areas.
In Latin America, the "suburbs" are not the enclave of the wealthy, but the
poorest neighborhoods built by refugees driven from their rural homelands..
The government has moved paramilitaries from their rural territories into
some of these neighborhoods in recent years, ostensibly in an effort to
demobilize them but certainly with an eye to destabilizing centers of urban
resistance as well; locals describe the atmosphere of fear created by gangs
of shaven-headed belligerents drinking on the streets all day. The
paramilitaries were withdrawn from one neighborhood after a bombing directed
at them, showing that perhaps there is a proper time and place for every

Like other Latin American metropolises, Bogotá excels all its North American
counterparts in graffiti. Everywhere you walk—and people do a lot of
walking—you can see exhortations from various communist and anarchist groups
painted in three-foot-high letters.

The city only cleans the walls on rare occasions, and vigilante interference
is limited to covering up the name of President Uribe wherever it appears in
a negative light; this seems to have increased recently, perhaps due to the
relocation of paramilitaries to the city. Other than this, the paramilitary
presence in Bogotá is largely invisible on the walls, perhaps because the
right wing controls the officially sanctioned media; in Ecuador, where
leftist Correa just came to power, the walls of Quito bear more swastikas
than circle-As.

Read the whole article at


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