Colombia: Day 6 of the national strike – Down with Duque!

Yesterday, on 3 May, Alberto Carrasquilla, the main proponent of the Tax Reform, exited through the back door, resigning with Vice Ministers Juan Alberto Londoño (Finance) and Juan Pablo Zárate (Treasury). The pressure from the national strike – which has now gone on for six days – and the total bankruptcy of the Duque-Uribe government, have put these pen-pushing officials to the test. In underestimating the power of the masses, they have been utterly scorched by it.


The departure of this representative of the Colombian elite is not to be taken lightly. This is a severe blow to the economic aspirations of the national bourgeoisie. On 6 April, 2020, Carrasquilla was nominated to preside over the multilateral bank CAF (Development Bank of Latin America), now the situation is complicated by his absence. Humiliated on an international level, he will likely be removed from his “pedestal” for his incompetent handling of events.

In less than 24 hours the masses have had two important victories, thereby demonstrating their strength. The power of the movement continues to grow, with more and more joining in the struggle. It has reached the large cities and towns, with addition of the transport union, taxi drivers, and other organisations with a long history of class struggle such as CRIC (Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca). With the incredible popularity of its slogans, this movement continues to grow further.

However, if in defeat nobody assumes the blame, in victory everyone accepts the glory. In this way the bureaucracies of the workers’ councils, the Committee of the Unemployed, and other opportunists from the left and centre have emerged. They are celebrating the victory as their own in order to regain leadership over the masses. Their ‘victory’ does not correspond to the reality of events. It is the masses on the streets who have won on their own initiative, coming to their own conclusions from facing the brutality of the regime. They have learned through struggle their power and capacity for resistance, thereby increasing their demands.

The boldness of these demands can be seen clearly in their range. From a repeal of the Health Reform bill of 2010 to the imprisonment of Carrasquilla; the dissolution of the ESMAD (Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron); police reform; the resignation of Carlos Camargo, ‘Public Defender’ (who strolls around whilst brutal repression is carried out upon the masses); the resignation of the Minister of Defence, Diego Molano; and finally, the resignation of Ivan Duque, President of the Republic.

These demands sharply contrast with the proposals from the National Committee of Unemployment, which shifted its idea of resuming demonstrations on 19 March to 5 May, calling for the demilitarisation of the cities, the withdrawal of the Health Reform Bill, advocacy of a Living Wage, and other similar demands. All of which are necessary, but which are far from what has already been achieved on the streets as a direct confrontation to the status quo. To say that the leadership here is lagging far behind the movement is an understatement.

The demand for Duque’s resignation makes sense as the current administration finds itself walking on a tightrope. Furthermore, decision after decision have seen their attempts to halt the strike fail. In fact, they have accomplished the opposite. It seems the only tool the Colombian elite has is its repressive apparatus, a tool that has been used exhaustively. Threats to stop vaccination, or lower foreign investment, hunger and violence are empty. That’s all part of the daily life of the average Colombian.

The incompetence of the ruling class has undeniably resulted in a massacre, the consequences of ruthless repression. For instance, when the masses decided on 2 May to continue the strike, they received a night of terror in response. Cities such as Palmira, Ibagué, Cali, Popayán, Facatativá, Bogotá and Medellín were victims of ESMAD’s reprisals. They kidnapped and beat protestors, they forcefully entered homes, threatened the human rights of officials, and raped and murdered in cold blood.

dia seis image fair useThe incompetence of the ruling class has undeniably resulted in a massacre, the consequences of ruthless repression / Image: fair use

According to Temblores ONG, 5 were murdered by the end of 2 May, now it’s a total of 26 in addition to the repressions of the previous days. Furthermore, they report that since 28 April there have been 1,181 cases of police violence, 142 victims of physical violence and 9 victims of sexual violence. It is horror without end, which seems to only be increasing. Appearing in the most belligerent places, they prevent people from supplying aid or from mobilising. In Cali, General Enrique Zapateiro took over command, and unleashed a massacre upon civilians.

However, as stated above, this is the only weapon they have in their arsenal, and it is an exhaustible and unreliable resource. These six days have made a dent in the public forces, that day after day succumb to multiple injuries. Indeed, resorting to the army was a necessity to make up for its lack of strength. Yet, the soldiers are fickle in light of their humble origins and lack of professionalism, and many are prone to fraternisation with the people. In fact, there have already been calls from retired military personnel and those of the reserves to side with the demonstrators. Even then, it is important to emphasise that the military is still the repressive arm of the state and serves its masters obediently.

The working class has begun to feel great confidence in its own strength and has used this strength to face off against the worst horrors imaginable. There is no doubt that this is the correct path, and it must be followed until the end. The natural conclusion should be this: The fall of Duque and the government, on account of its own ineptitude, cynicism, and inefficiency.

Any law that threatens the working class, in the present or in the future, must be a cause for rebellion and mobilisation of the masses. However, although victories may be won, if the movement becomes weak at any point it risks losing what it has already won. For this, it is necessary that a revolutionary organisation be formed. An organisation which understands the interests of the masses, and can transform this into a political programme capable of responding to, for instance, a possible vacuum in government. Furthermore, this programme must be based on nothing more than the ideas of Marxism, in order to lead the masses to socialism.

If anything has become clear in these last few days, it is that bourgeois democracy is in the service of the ruling class. The laws it changes are of little value if they are the subject of that very same democracy. As long as the commanding levers of the economy are in the hands of the capitalist elites, any and all reform and regulation will be in the service of their interests.

A great challenge lies in front of us, but it is one that our movement and experiences can confront in struggle. It is undeniable that progress has been made, and certainly more can be done. Yet, if there is no discussion organised around the ideas of the movement and its objectives there is a great chance that it may lose its strength and momentum given the real limitations of these mobilisations. This would represent a great defeat that surely would result in the doubling down of repression.

The awakening of a people is extraordinary. In a week it has achieved and advanced more than what has been done in years. Revolutionary awakening is also magnificent, but its energy can diffuse in an instant. Moreso if it suffers from strategic confusion and is constantly suffering setbacks. Our organisation applauds the rebellion of the Colombian working class and its determination in this struggle. But we insist on the need to form neighbourhood defence committees and discuss strategies on how to defend oneself from police abuses, as well as discuss the practical problems of the neighbourhoods, the cities, and the country, and to form regional councils along the same foundations. Likewise, from this foundation, sure and quick solutions may be discussed in the event that a possible vacuum of power presents itself. It may determine a political programme which, on the basis of a socialist plan and programme, provides an even greater purpose than the defence of the movement: a challenge to the Colombian elite for power.

Ivan Duque image TokotaThe demand for Duque’s resignation makes sense as the current administration finds itself walking on a tightrope / Image: Tokota

The road to change has been paved by the youth, the peasants, and the working class. It is a difficult road that will require many sacrifices and mistakes will be made. However, every historical task necessitates a first step; and it is indeed a difficult one. Yet, when taken, events will unfold with their own logic. The tasks of Marxists in this period is to put our theory and study of history and society at the service of the working class and its movement, to bring down this government and the class it represents. It is a good thing, then, that we have already started.

We present our programme and proposal that we submit to criticism. That is why we invite you to discuss them with neighbours and friends.

No end to the Strike!

Out with Duque and the class he represents!

For a united party of the working class!


TO THE WORKERS AND YOUTH OF COLOMBIA:

Iván Duque and his boss Álvaro "The Butcher" Uribe have declared war on the workers and youth in a genuine criminal collusion with the capitalist class. The cowardice and clumsiness with which they act are evidence of a force that, not wanting to accept defeat, is threatening all its arsenal. But this arsenal is limited and, although defenceless, we overwhelm them in numbers and morale. They have the training of bluster and ruthlessness, we have the training of work. It is essential to maintain the offensive when the regime has shown that shedding the blood of honest people is the only thing that makes them think they are brave.

The national strike must go on. Every single person who has fallen fighting has said goodbye to us with that hope. Overthrowing the government is the best tribute we can pay them and the best legacy we can give to the new generations.

The experience of 2019 showed us that the assemblies and committees that we can organise in our neighbourhoods are more effective and provide better solutions in a couple of meetings than a century of congressional sessions. We need to return to those spaces, meet to assess the situation, propose solutions and discuss them among the different groups. In this way, we will be able to build a solid programme and identify leaderships. In this sense, we put forward our programme for your consideration.

The different workers' initiatives should convene a Popular Emergency Meeting, composed of delegates elected in the neighbourhood assemblies to give the struggle an organised and democratic character. In this meeting the urgent questions should be raised and how to achieve them: the dismantling of the ESMAD, the trial and punishment of those responsible for the repression, the organisation of pickets to defend the demonstrations, the end of the 010 Law that will enslave the health workers and reduce them to commodities, and the repudiation of the payment of the foreign debt.

The honour of the Colombian soldiers, sons of the working and peasant people, cannot be stained by obeying criminals like Eduardo Zapateiro and Álvaro "The Butcher" Uribe. We invite you to join the struggle against the government, on the side of your own people, of those of us who know what it is to go through want and hardship.

We, the workers, must not pay for this crisis. It will be the rich, those who have been turning our sweat and blood into luxurious private parties, who will have to pay for all this. On the ruins of their decadence we, the workers, will be able to build a paradise on earth on this fertile and diverse piece of the world.

The Strike does not Stop - Assemblies and Committees to strengthen the struggle - National Emergency Meeting to give it leadership - Down with Duque - Let the workers rule!