“…the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes” (Karl Marx, The Civil War in France).
The 50-year old civil war in Colombia is effectively finished.
After four years of negotiations in Havana, a ceasefire and agreement (The General Agreement for the Termination of the Conflict and the Construction of a Stable and Lasting Peace) was signed between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the leaders of the FARC-EP guerrilla forces.
It is entirely understandable that the Colombian masses, weary of a conflict in which a quarter of a million people have died, and with no immediate prospects of a victory for the guerrilla forces, would welcome an end to civil war.
However, they should harbour no illusions about the possibility of achieving peacefully what they could not achieve through armed struggle.
The agreement with the government covers agrarian development, political participation, decommissioning of weapons and dismantling of paramilitary groups, victims’ rights, illicit drugs and implementation measures.
These six areas of the agreement provide for very limited gains for the poor and landless, the workers and revolutionary intellectuals who have supported FARC-EP.
The attitude of the landlords and capitalists was made clear in the October 2 plebiscite which narrowly rejected the agreement. Only 37% of registered voters took part. The highest concentration of votes was in the big cities like Bogota and Medellin. Here the bourgeoisie displayed their vile hatred of the poor by urging rejection of the agreement and a continuation of state violence against the guerrillas.
Ensconced behind their guarded and gated communities, behind their razor wire-topped and electric fencing, the Colombian bourgeoisie wanted to continue with a war of extermination, convinced that with US support they could finally crush the FARC-EP.
The right-wing, religious and reactionary ruling class ran a campaign to scare itself into believing that the agreement was some sort of Chavez-style plot to make Colombia into a second Venezuela, a country in which their class brothers and sisters have loudly bemoaned restrictions on their greed and ill-gotten wealth.
The Colombian ruling class has a fairy tale in which only the FARC-EP created victims in the civil war, as a consequence of which its leaders should be tried as war criminals and executed.
FARC-EP support for the rights of LGBTI Colombians sent ruling class reactionaries to Church on Sundays to pray that such un-Christian abominations never be legalised in their deeply Catholic country.
It is this class that has shaped and owned and controlled the centralised state power of Colombia, with its death squads and paramilitary murderers thrown on top of what Marx described in relation to the French state as “its ubiquitous organs of standing army, police, bureaucracy, clergy, and judicature – organs wrought after the plan of a systematic and hierarchic division of labour”.
It is this class that rejects reconciliation and compromise and is determined to continue to use the state as “a public force organized for social enslavement” (Marx, The Civil War in France).
FARC-EP leaders say they will continue to fight for a socialist future within this already existing Colombian state.
They and Santos have vowed to adhere to the agreement despite the No vote in the plebiscite.
It is absolutely the case that just as there is a time to pick up the gun, so there is a time to put it down.
It is also regrettably the case that only one side will be laying down its weapons under the agreement.