FARC leader Manuel Marulanda, presente!

NYC FIST

People struggling for national liberation everywhere and workers throughout the world lost a great leader with the death of Manuel Marulanda on March 26.

Marulanda, a founder of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (FARC-EP), was a skilled guerilla tactician as well as a Marxist theorist. Put into practice, his efforts led to the fruition of the largest and longest-lasting guerrilla movement in the Western Hemisphere. Building this movement was Marulanda’s life work. His story is the history of this struggle.

While the U.S. imperialist government with its allies in the Colombian government and corporate media denounce the FARC as a so-called “terrorist” organization, they ignore the terror inflicted on the people of Colombia that provoked the creation of the FARC-EP in the first place.

After rebellions followed the assassination of Liberal Party leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitán on April 9, 1948, the Colombian government, led by the Conservative Party, carried out mass violence against communists and members of the Liberal Party. For ten years thereafter, a war between the two parties spread throughout the country, with hundreds of thousands massacred.

No one was closer to the situation than Marulanda himself, and in “Cuadernos de Campaña” (Campaign Notebooks), he describes the beginnings of the armed resistance: “It was enough that a region or a district was identified as having ‘communist’ or ‘collarejo’ residents for the police and the armed Conservatives to destroy it, killing some of the inhabitants, burning their houses, taking prisoners who never appeared again, stealing their livestock and raping women. …

“[Resistance] groups made their appearance in the Cordillera Central with many natural deficiencies at the beginning: inexperience, inadequate organization, objective limitations, etc. For those condemned to death by the chulavita death squads, they were something like a lifesaver. For the peasants who did not want to continue on the unknown road of roaming to the cities, temporarily or permanently abandoning the fruit of many years of hard work, it was the hope of staying, participating and once in a while having a glimpse of their native land to which they were so spiritually and materially attached. …

“Many groups organized themselves and dissolved. There was still the hope among workers that the current situation was going to go away. But despite all that, something remained solid: people ready to take all the implicit risks of their decision to resist, and to transform that self-defense resistance into a conscious mass attitude to achieve their goal so that future generations didn’t have to experience the scourge of having guns in their hands. These men and women have merited a place in the true ‘Homeland’s History.’ They formed the nucleus of the determined struggle.”

The resolution of ten years known as “La Violencia” was a pact known as a National Front, in which the nation’s presidency would switch back and forth between the two parties for four presidential terms.

However, while the type of governance might have changed, the repression against peasants and workers would only return and continue to this day. Marulanda points out: “The bourgeoisie wisely knew how to take advantage of these heroic struggles in order to take the leadership in overthrowing the reactionary dictatorship of 1953 and to open a new chapter in governing. This new chapter had slightly different characteristics, but was aimed at preserving the same oligarchic and neocolonialist interests.”

After a Pentagon-inspired military incursion into several independently governed peasant regions in 1964, the FARC set up camp in Riochiquito and formally organized themselves.

Despite a concerted campaign by the Colombian government, backed by the U.S. government to the tune of $600 million a year, the FARC has not disappeared. Conversely, in the face of continued paramilitary massacres, the murder of trade unionists and a general level of repression against all unarmed social movements in Colombia, the FARC has continued its determined resistance against imperialism. Meanwhile, the truth about corruption and murder at the hands of the giant multinational corporations and the very heads of the Colombian government steadily surface.

Marulanda notes several factors in the resilience of the FARC despite all odds. In addition to truth, experience and solidarity, he states as the last factor: “We are guided by a revolutionary ideology. Our political beacon is the theory of socialism, shaped in the practice of communist activity.”

Workers and youth around the world owe a debt to and will be forever inspired by Manuel Marulanda’s life of struggle and tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds—proving once again that the power of the people can repel the forces of oppression.

Long live the struggle of the Colombian people!

All the Marulanda quotes come from translations in the book “War in Colombia: Made in U.S.A.,” available at leftbooks.com.

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