By Grupo de Trabajadores Socialistas and Impulso Socialista
The election of Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez to the presidency and vice-presidency of the republic has been an expression of the resistance of the Colombian people against the regime of exploitation, violence, oppression and discrimination with which the bourgeoisie and imperialism have traditionally dominated and plundered our country and our people. It is a direct consequence of the social struggles that have been waged in recent years, in particular the social uprising of April 28, 2021.
Behind the candidacy of Rodolfo Hernández, the traditional political sectors and the most backward sectors of the bourgeoisie united in a bloc. In spite of his populist promises to put an end to corruption, with which many of them have enriched themselves, they considered the businessman Hernandez more reliable to preserve their interests against the reformist proposals of the Historic Pact. They used all the power of the media at their disposal to fight to maintain their monopoly of the government. They were defeated at the polls by a narrow margin, but enough to avoid questioning the legality of the results. It is an important political defeat of the far-right that drastically changes the political situation in the country.
In response to the rise of the Rodolfo Hernandez’s candidacy, Petro had already called for a National Agreement, whoever wins. Some bourgeois political sectors welcomed his proposal because they are afraid of a new social uprising and considered that Petro and Francia have the possibility of containing the popular unrest. Now, as President-elect, Petro has insisted on this proposal. In the first place, because the country was politically divided in half and the sectors that supported Hernandez may be the social base of the far-right opposition embodied in the Democratic Center. And secondly, because the traditional parties control most of the seats in the Congress of the Republic and other institutions, like the Attorney General’s Office, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Comptroller General’s Office. As he has committed himself to respect bourgeois institutionality, and has waived the possibility of calling a Constituent Assembly, Petro knows that the reforms he has promised have to be negotiated with those who until now have been his political opponents, sworn enemies of the working people, the youth and the marginalized.
In his victory speech on June 19, Petro promised to respect private property and to develop capitalism; he referred to guaranteeing the interests of big business in exchange for accepting a margin of wealth distribution, through new taxes and some modifications to the economic development model. We cannot rule out the possibility of his government implementing some social welfare measures to cover the most impoverished sectors, but the depth of his reforms remains to be seen, since the current situation of the capitalist economy reduces the margins of maneuverability of so-called progressive governments. Global price inflation is accelerating the deterioration of wages and the current economic growth is based on job precariousness, privatizations, the destruction of social guarantees such as health, education or public services and the acceleration of the depredation of nature. Social uprisings like the one that is shaking Ecuador today are the agenda.
Collaborate with the bourgeoisie and imperialism to achieve changes?
The bourgeoisie needs the social struggle to be appeased, as it has been since the lifting of the national strike and during the electoral period, by force of repression and some conjunctural measures of social assistance. They want to take advantage of the understandable euphoria felt by Petro’s voters to achieve a truce, in exchange for the promise to negotiate in the Congress some reforms such as the tax reform or the National Development Plan, with which peace, social justice and environmental justice, the three axes that summarize Petro’s government program, would supposedly be guaranteed.
The workers, the youth, the peasants, the indigenous, the “Nadies” (Nobodies) as Vice President-elect Francia Márquez calls them, should not expect anything from the collaboration with the bourgeoisie promoted by the Historic Pact and its government. The “unconditional” support of the of César Gaviria’s Liberal Party -father of the Constitution of ’91 and of neoliberalism in Colombia- for Petro’s government, or the leadership of Congress in the hands of an opportunist character like Roy Barreras, are no guarantee of anything for us. Barreras has defined Petro’s government as “liberal, social democratic, progressive,” emphasizing that it is not “a radical government.” He is already in negotiations with the Conservative Party to continue bleeding the treasury in exchange for their parliamentary support.
It suffices to look at the candidates for the Ministry of Finance, among which there are characters such as Rudolf Hommes, former Minister of Finance of César Gaviria, or Alejandro Gaviria, former Minister of Health of Juan Manuel Santos, to understand that Petro’s government will be made up of characters of the absolute confidence of the bourgeoisie and will be a government of conciliation and collaboration with their interests. Thus, the only ones who will “live deliciously” will be the same as always.
In Petro’s first conversation with Joe Biden, president of the United States, they limited themselves to reaffirming supposed mutual interests in economic development, the peace plan and climate change. Petro has boasted of his close relations with the Yankee Democratic Party, Biden’s electoral base, while 200 years of submission of our country to imperialism are being commemorated. For example, the Free Trade Agreement, Plan Colombia, the so-called War on Drugs, the US military bases in our territory and our country’s integration to the OECD, NATO, the international courts, or the heavy burden of the foreign debt protected by the Fiscal Rule. In addition, we must be attentive to the role that Petro will play in the reestablishment of relations between the US and Venezuela.
In the program of the Historic Pact there is no mention of any radical break with those relations, that is why it would be an exaggeration to characterize Petro’s government as anti-imperialist.
Returning to the path of struggle and mobilization
For their part, the social leadership grouped in the National Strike Committee and the trade union confederations, consider the Petro government as “their government,” and will be promoters of a social “truce.” We must fight against the straitjacket with which the bureaucracy and the reformists want to contain the protest movement. It is necessary to resolutely raise the banners of the national strike, strengthen our organization and prepare ourselves for the inevitable struggles that we will have to wage if we want definitive solutions to our needs and demands.
In this sense, our slogan must be “No truce!” The hunger that plagues poor households cannot wait. We require an immediate readjustment of wages and a shock plan that guarantees genuine work for all. Freezing prices and tariffs to curb inflation. It is not enough to raise taxes on the four thousand largest fortunes in the country, it is necessary to expropriate them and put that wealth in the hands of society. A true agrarian reform is indispensable to return millions of hectares of land from which millions of peasants, indigenous and Afro-descendants were dispossessed. There will not be “more egalitarian” relations with imperialism if we do not break all the pacts that tie us to its plans of plunder and war. We need to refuse to pay the usurious foreign debt. The true democratization of the political regime cannot be postponed, and it requires the trial and punishment of those responsible for the massacres against the poor and social leaders, so that social organizations are the protagonists of participation and decision making on the destiny of society.
Only a true government of the workers and the poor, which will inevitably clash with the interests of the national capitalists and imperialism, can succeed in imposing this radical program. We must strengthen the social organizations and remove the bureaucracy from their leadership. Our method of struggle must be social mobilization, workers’ democracy and the democratic defense of the social organizations and their leaders. For this, the formation of a national and international revolutionary socialist organization is indispensable. That is the purpose of the Socialist Workers Group in unity with Impulso Socialista, section of the International Socialist League. We invite you to join us in this task.
June 24, 2022